To cushion the effects of bad economy on their finances, more Nigerians are embracing smartphone financing schemes. The scheme allows intending users without adequate funding at hand to get a device of their choice after making an initial deposit, with the remaining balance spread over a period of time.
Electronic commerce platforms, gadgets platforms, and banks have introduced the scheme, which is gradually gaining attention. The scheme is not limited to Nigeria, as it has gained more traction, even better, in countries including South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, and some sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
Already, through this scheme, the Global System for Mobile telecommunications Association (GSMA), predicted that smartphone connections in the region will hit 700 million by 2025. GSMA expects Nigeria to have 154 million, South Africa 73 million, and Kenya 47 million connections.
Currently, estimates from different sources put the number of smartphone users in Nigeria at between 25 and 40 million. The exact number of users is hard to pin down.
However, available data show a strong growth outlook for the local smartphone market with user numbers to at least triple within the next five to six years.
GSMA noted that smartphone adoption in SSA is rising but lags behind global average (64 per cent at the end of 2019) by a considerable margin.
Affordability, especially of 4G-enabled devices, remains a key barrier to smartphone adoption in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
Indeed, GSMA in its, “The Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2020” report, observed that the average selling price of smartphones has reduced significantly in recent years, with the influx of sub-$100 devices from Chinese brands such as Tecno and Infinix, and the growing momentum behind the KaiOS-powered smart feature phones.”
GSMA however, disclosed that many consumers are still unable to afford the one-off upfront cost of purchasing a device. Against this backdrop, smartphone financing schemes are beginning to gain traction in the region. In July 2020, Safaricom partnered with Google to launch the Lipa Mdogo Mdogo payment plan, allowing customers with 2G and a daily wage to upgrade to 4G devices for a deposit of KES1000 ($10), and daily installments of KES20.
The daily, rather than monthly payment option reflects the financial culture of low-income users, many of whom earn a daily wage, and can only afford smaller payments on a regular basis.
In 2019, smartphone start-up, Mara Phones, partnered with several banks, including Nedbank in South Africa, and Bank of Kigali in Rwanda, to pre-finance devices for consumers, who can pay for their devices in monthly instalments of $4-$6 over two to three years. The Mara solution targets aspirational users, who are looking for fully-featured devices (usually priced at above $100) but are unable to pay the full cost upfront.
Confirming this development to The Guardian, the President of Phone And Allied Products Dealers Association (PAPDA), Computer Village, Ikeja, Ifeanyi Akube, said the initiative is fast gaining ground in Nigeria, as more firms are coming up with such.
Akube said though at association level, “we don’t do that, but members have individual schemes like that to encourage use, and adoption of smartphones in the country. Some companies even approach some of our member for such. They get the phone in bulk for their members, and the money is remitted to members from the companies’ staff salaries.”
The PAPDA boss, who said the economic situation, especially lack of regular income is part of what is forcing people to embrace the scheme, noted that members, who are into it, usually spread the payment plan between three to six months, after initial part payment.
Meanwhile, some of the schemes in Nigeria include Easybuy. This is a mobile device financing platform operated by Palmcredit, which offers flexible financing plans for people looking to purchase smartphones but cannot pay the one-off cost of their desired device.
Interested buyers are expected to pay an initial deposit (at least 30 per cent of the phone’s cost), and work out a financing plan with Easybuy, where the remaining 70 per cent (plus interest) is spread over three to six months.
An official, who simply gave her name as Bisola, confirmed that people have been embracing the scheme. She said some people default, “but we follow up on them deeply to recover our money. The rate of default is low. It is convenient because after the initial 30 per cent payment, the 70 per cent left is spread within three to six months.”
Jumia Nigeria also runs a flexible financing structure for its customers, who cannot afford to pay a one-off price on their desired devices. The plan is under a subsidiary of Jumia Nigeria known as “Jumia Flex”. Jumia Customers can purchase selected smartphones, laptops, and other devices and spread payments across three to six months. To get this done, the intended buyer will need to provide, among other things, a bank statement from the last six months, a valid ID card (National ID card, International passport, Voter Card, or Driver’s license), among others.
Similarly, Slot Nigeria offers such services. Customers can trade in their old smartphones for a new one as well as purchase a new smartphone and pay in monthly instalments over a specified period. SLOT also offers three to six months repayment plans for smartphones, accessories, laptops, and other gadgets and electronics.
Access Bank in 2019 launched, Device Finance Scheme, designed to finance the purchase of devices under a contract arrangement. The scheme currently includes smartphone devices, where customers can enjoy additional benefits with an optional monthly airtime bundle, which can also be converted to data.
The Bank explained that the scheme is available to all its salaried customers, and devices can be purchased at competitive market prices, spread across a 12-month repayment period.
There is also the ParktelOnline, which basically sells mobile devices and accessories only targeting to put smartphones in the hands of those who are not financially capable enough for a one-off payment. ParktelOnline “Buy now, pay later” plan is only available for its customers located in Lagos and Abuja, and is available for products N50, 000 and above.
According to the GSMA, the success of the mobile-enabled pay-as-you-go model for the provision of affordable home solar equipment underscores the opportunity to make 4G smartphones accessible to more consumers through financing schemes.While there are still concerns around the lack of credit-scoring facilities, operators are well placed to leverage account activities, including mobile money transactions, to create a credible credit profile for potential customers.