RJ van Spaandonk is the Xiaomi distributor for Mobiles in Africa. He said on Thursday that Xiaomi plans to open stores in South Africa focused on promoting and selling the fast-growing Chinese smartphone brand over there. Mobile in Africa, is a sister company of South African Apple distributor Core Group, is planing to repeat the success of Core Group’s iStore retail chain in launching the Xiaomi-focused stores, Van Spaandonk said in an interview with TechCentral.
News come as Core Group opens its 22nd iStore in South Africa, in the Mall of Africa near Midrand in Johannesburg, this week. Van Spaandonk said iStore is a premium brand, but has a different target market from Xiaomi.
The launch in sub-Saharan Africa, through Mobile in Africa, is the first time Xiaomi has expanded in Africa. Don’t forget that by now, Xiaomi has plans for India, Brazil and some other countries.
Van Spaandonk emphasized that Xiaomi comes with high-quality but affordable products. “Prices of other brands were just too high for many Chinese people. Xiaomi introduced a smartphone at an affordable price, with an operating system and a set of services optimized for the Chinese market.” He hopes Xiaomi will be able to replicate its success in China in Africa as consumers migrate to smartphones.
Core Group, has worked with Apple for more than 15 years, secured the rights to represent the iPhone in more markets across Africa. It was only soon that the company realized that affordability was a significant barrier in countries where people couldn’t get phones on contract. “In emerging markets, where credit rating systems are not good enough to take out risk and credit recovery mechanisms are difficult, operators do not offer contracts,” he said. “People have to pay cash upfront for their devices. We realized that to keep growing our business, we had to sell smartphones [at a lower retail price].”
Despite the fact that Mobile in Africa and Core Group have the same shareholders, the companies are separated by a Chinese wall, and have their own marketing and sales teams. They do, however, share warehousing space. “We felt we couldn’t miss out on Xiaomi, given they are such an innovator in the smartphone space,” Van Spaandonk said. The companies reached an agreement in mid-2015, with the first phones going on sale in South Africa at the end of last year.
For now, Mobile in Africa is focused on the key markets of South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. “The products obviously end up in surrounding countries, through partners,” said Van Spaandonk.
So, would you like Xiaomi to open a retail shop and your country? Tell us from where you are and if you would like to see a shop at your hometown!