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Lenovo expands in Africa

2015-02-13 11:21 chinadaily.com.cn Web Editor: Qin Dexing
Lenovo's office in South Africa, provided to China Daily

Lenovo's office in South Africa, provided to China Daily

Chinese laptop and tablets manufacturer Lenovo is making great inroads into the African continent, investing in sales channels well in advance to take advantage of the continent's rapidly growing information technology systems.

With expansion starting in South Africa, Lenovo has subsequently grown its footprint in both East and West Africa, becoming an important business and consumer brand across the continent, says Lenovo's general manager for Africa, Graham Braum.

Founded in Shenzhen in 1984, Lenovo's international expansion dates back to 2005 when it acquired the US high tech company, IBM's personal computer business. Today its tablets and personal computers can be seen amongst a wide group of consumers all over Europe, championing both function and design.

Braum says as a company Lenovo's expansion is significantly characterized by geographical expansion.

"From a global perspective, if we go back three years ago, half of the revenue from Lenovo was coming out of China. Nowadays, even though our China revenue continues to grow, we generate two thirds of our business from Europe, Middle East and Africa," he says. Having initially established a sales office in South Africa, and from there expanded to East African markets of Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda. "We now have a full team in Nairobi, looking after our various segments, from consumer to retail, from small and medium enterprises to education," Braum says.

In West Africa, Lenovo initially invested in a legal office in Nigeria. Expansion then happened across Ghana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana.

"Our first strategy is to set up a structure for services, supply chain and distribution channels. Secondly, we have to keep a global-local strategy, hiring the top local talents to run local markets. By empowering our regional teams, we empower our business," he says.

Founded in Beijing in 1984 by entrepreneur Liu Chuanzhi, Lenovo made a significant international move when it acquired IBM's personal computer business in 2005. The company also entered the smartphone market in 2012 and as of 2014 is the largest vendor of smartphones in Mainland China. Lenovo is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the Hang Seng China-Affiliated Corporations Index, often referred to as "Red Chips." One example of Lenovo's local strategy is to put a great emphasis on products that sell well in Africa, which includes the Lenovo Yoga family of products. The series have four different modes: laptop, tablet, tent, or stand.

"We've built into it real design, innovation and functionality, all of which are unique ideas to the Yoga. The product is full high definition, it can stand and talk, and have all specifications required," he says.

As Africa's power supply can be limited in many situations, the Yoga products' long battery life of up to 18 hours has become a key advantage for its popularity on the continent.

Another popular product in Africa is the Lenovo netbook, which look like miniature laptops, with screens rarely exceeding 10 or 12 inches.

Lenovo introduced netbooks around since 2008. They are generally characterized by a distinct dependency on connecting to a network, or the highlighted ability to connect to a network.

Braum says the 10 inch netbook is very popular in Africa, as consumer survey shows they wanted a product between a notebook and a tablet, he says.

Another strategy Lenovo is adopting in Africa is rolling out products alongside different African governments' rolling out of wireless technology, Braum says.

"Wireless communities are already being established in Laos, South Africa, Rwanda and other places. We are seeing all the technology becoming available and affordable in these countries, and more countries are following this trend," says Braum.

As internet becomes available, Lenovo's users will then be able to fully enjoy all the functions of its products.

In addition, Lenovo is focusing on supply chain technology and giving its customers after sales support, he says. "We bring innovation to the supply chain, to make sure we set the standard for what we want to represent, which are, quality, reliability, style and speed."

In the long term, Braum says Lenovo in Africa will focus on continuing to consistently supply personal computer products and allow this market to grow, while moving into new territory such as mobile and enterprise.

He says this is consistent with Lenovo's global strategy of 'protect and attack', which means protecting market share of products already doing well, and entering into new territories.

"We protect markets like China where we have more than 30 percent share, and then we attack markets we are not present in, for example, we can move into the consumer brand space," he says.

In Africa, this means being able to have a full range of consumer products to meet market needs.

Braum, who is originally from Johannesburg, has worked in the IT sector for 18 years. He said that he decided to join Lenovo, because he saw big opportunities for the brand to grow fast. "I think Lenovo is a big company in the world, and what it is doing globally is very innovative," he says.

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