Huawei Technologies and Microsoft have stepped up their expansion in Africa by jointly introducing a low-cost smartphone that runs on the new Windows Phone 8 operating system.
The product's launch yesterday marked the start of the "Microsoft 4Africa Initiative", a new effort through which the software giant will actively engage in helping the continent improve its global competitiveness.
The "Huawei 4Africa" smartphone will be available later this month in seven countries: Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa. The internet-ready 3G mobile phone is a customised version of the Ascend W1, the first Windows smartphone from Huawei that debuted in mainland China and Russia last month.
Initial reports said the device would cost US$150 and come pre-loaded with applications designed by African developers for domestic consumers.
Ali Faramawy, Microsoft's vice-president for the Middle East and Africa, said Huawei's device represented the first in a series of "4Africa" smartphones to be sold to "tens of millions" of domestic consumers.
"We believe strongly that improved access to affordable and high-quality smartphones in Africa can have a strong impact on the continent's overall economic development," Faramawy said.
He said smartphones currently accounted "for only about 10 per cent of total mobile phones in the market". This could bode well for Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo and other Chinese makers of low-cost smartphones.
The GSM Association, which has nearly 800 telecommunications network operators as members, forecast mobile-phone connections in Africa would increase 11 per cent this year to 807 million from last year. It said the continent was the world's second-largest market for mobile phones after Asia.
Peter Hu, managing director for the Huawei Device operations in Eastern and Southern Africa, expected the company's 4Africa smartphone "to ensure that more people have access to leading technology, communications and information services".
Shenzhen-based Huawei, China's largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, generated revenue of US$3.42 billion in 2011 in Africa, compared with US$2.98 billion in 2010. The company set up its first Africa office in 1999 in Cairo, Egypt.