19: Does Africa Need More Cheap Smartphones?

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For many recently married couples, the diamond engagement ring is one of their biggest assets — albeit an emotional asset, symbolising love and lifelong commitment. In financial terms, it isn’t an asset at all, considering the fact that it loses at least 50% of its retail value the moment you leave the jewellery store.

Rough, isn’t it?

And yet still we feel compelled to buy diamonds for our loved ones, and continue to fuel a global billion-dollar industry. One has to admire the ingenious marketing strategy drafted and executed by the N.W. Ayer ad agency in the early 1900s for their client, De Beers, which resulted in the world attaching value to a commodity that’s not nearly as rare (or as necessary) as we were led to believe.

In this week’s African Tech Round-up, Tefo Mohapi and Andile Masuku discuss the implications of low-cost smartphone penetration on the continent.

The increase in internet use via mobile devices has undoubtedly delivered certain advantages. But when you consider how issues like the prevalence of preventable diseases, hunger and limited access to basic education continue to be a daily reality faced by many Africans, the importance of whether or not you have a smartphone might be in question.

So, just how important and necessary is this so-called “mass exodus” from feature phones to smartphones, and could the Android brigade (led by Google and its mobile device manufacturing homies) be stimulating the demand for the smartphone the way De Beers did for diamonds near the turn of the century?

Also in this week's episode, all the week's biggest digital, tech and innovation news:

  • Vodacom South Africa rolls out voice-over-WiFi calling,
  • The Nigerian Communications Commission poised to deactivate 10.7 million mobile lines over various networks,
  • Kenyan banks are finally getting in on the mobile money craze in a big way,
  • Uber Kenya sees their user numbers triple following the introduction of Uber Cash,
  • The embattled Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa is reeling following a train crash,
  • Thousands of South Africans reportedly implicated in the Ashley Madison data dump, and
  • Google rolls out its Android One programme is Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Egypt, and Morocco.