A man in Ethiopia talks on his cell phone. (Photo/Xinhua)
Mobile phones manufactured in China have cornered half of the East African market, bringing them on a par with the combined total of Samsung and Nokia. However, Chinese firms' common practice of blatantly copying phone designs and technology poses a serious threat to the development of their business in the region, a report on the tech section of Chinese news portal Sina says.
In recent years, Chinese wholesalers have sold millions of cheap "copycat" phones to customers in Kenya and other countries in East Africa.
According to the report, Chinese wholesalers doing business along Luthuli Avenue in Nairobi and their local partners have commanded 50% of total mobile phone sales in the region since 2009.
These low cost and inferior quality mobile phones are easily recognized by local customers as "Chinese." Some people even consider the sizeable sales of cheap mobile phones by Chinese wholesalers in Kenya has hurt relations between the two countries. Tensions reportedly peaked in August when hundreds of local dealers protested on Nairobi's streets against Chinese mobile phone suppliers.
The protest prompted four telecom operators to work with the government to launch a drive to curtail the sales of these phones by changing mobile phone signals. Kenya's neighboring countries have adopted similar measures to crack down on these knock-off phones.
The Communications Commission of Kenya said that about 3 million of the 30 million mobile phones being used in the country are inferior replica products.
Three quarters of the public in Kenya own mobile phones and about half of their phones were manufactured in China.
Kenya lies at the heart of the East African region and merchants from neighboring countries usually buy mobile phones from the market in Nairobi. New merchants hailing from Arab countries are also expected to help expand the country's market.