2018/10/10: In Edna Mall on the bustling Bole Road in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, Mesert Baru poses for her Tecno Camon i. "This phone is seriously nice for selfies," says the 35-year-old shop assistant, admiring the picture she just took.
Mesert's satisfaction is no accident. Tecno cameras have been optimized for African complexions, explains Arif Chowdhury, vice president of Transsion. "Our cameras adjust more light for darker skin, so the photograph is more beautiful," he says. "That's one of the reasons we've become successful."
More innovations followed. Transsion opened research and development centers in China, Nigeria and Kenya to work out how to better appeal to African users. Local languages such as Amharic, Hausa and Swahili were added to keyboards and phones were given a longer battery life.
Chinese companies have been eager to use technology to tap into Africans' spending habits. In 2015, Kenyan mobile payments operator M-Pesa migrated all of its 12.8 million subscribers to Huawei's Mobile Money platform as it expanded across East Africa and beyond. The move increased the number of transactions M-Pesa could process, and the app's user base has more than doubled since then.
For Transsion, future growth is set to come from building its business outside Africa in other developing markets, such as Russia, Indonesia and Bangladesh. In 2017, it launched Tecno in India and within a year had claimed 5% of the huge market, according to IDC.
How did Tecno make such rapid progress? Transsion's Chowdhury says another innovation tailored to local customs has helped.
"Indian people use their hands to eat food," he says, "so their fingers get oily. What if you're having lunch and your boss calls? You try to take the call but your fingerprint won't work." The fix: screens that can read greasy fingers.
In 2012, the Chinese government "graciously offered" African States a gift and constructed the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa.
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