Motorola expands in Africa

Motorola will be rolling out handset specifically designed for the African market.

Motorola Inc. has embarked on a program to expand its African operations in a bid to compete with rivals in the mobile phone market, according to company executives.

Through a new program dubbed "connecting the unconnected," Motorola is seeking to develop and roll out products that are strictly for the African market.

In the last two years, Motorola has lost ground in the handset arena due to vigorous marketing by its rivals, mainly LG Electronics Inc., Nokia Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

Motorola's general manger in charge of mobile devices for high growth markets, Allen Burnes, said last week that the company now wants to have a presence in many African countries to cope with a growing demand for handsets and to compete with its handset rivals.

The company is to launch about 32 different handset models designed for emerging markets in Africa, Latin America and Asia, according to Motorola Account Director Lisa Clark. About a half dozen of those models will be specifically designed for Africa, she said.

"Motorola wants to bridge a digital divide and connect the unconnected in numerous emerging markets," said Clark in an e-mail exchange with IDG News Service.

The rollout of new handsets will begin early next year in sub-Saharan Africa, according Stephen Nolan, Motorola's general manager in charge of sub-Saharan Africa. Thereafter the rollout will spread to other parts of Africa, he said.

The new range of handsets will have features including long battery life, large displays, and ruggedized exteriors.

"Our aim is to supply cheap and strong handsets in emerging markets in Africa. The phones will be sold as low as $40 [in U.S. currency] so that everyone can afford to get a handset," Nolan said.

Burnes said Africa needs handsets that meet specific requirements and designs that are affordable to everyone and so factors such as durability and affordability had to be taken into consideration.

Motorola's "connecting the unconnected" strategy means that the company will have to open offices in many African countries in order to carry out the distribution of the handsets smoothly, but the company has not yet named the countries in which it intends to open offices.

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