Apple Skips Africa on World Release of iPhone 5s

iPhone 5s


In Apple’s press release Friday the world was told they will be receiving the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, unless you live in Africa of course.

Just skipping an entire continent might not have seemed unusual but when the recent tech evolution is booming there it does seem strange.

Last year, the One Laptop Per Child organization shocked the world when they dropped off laptops to two remote villages in Ethiopia with no instructions or teachers. The experiment was to see if kids could learn to read by themselves without previous exposure to written words.

The result was transformational. Even the founder of OLPC, Nicholas Negroponte, was shocked. “Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch… powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android.”

Just when it could not get any more surreal Mr. Negroponte pointed out an operational error within the tablets and how the kids fixed it. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”

The kids were able to teach themselves and apparently hack into their computers, which is something even tech savvy users in the US cannot do. This begs the question of whether or not our traditional school system is still necessary in a world of computers and Internet. That same question can be applied across all continents, not just Africa. Yet in Africa, this one tiny experiment was transcendental for the village.

The villages can become tech competent, the cities are already bustling in innovation and Apple’s competitors continue to move into African markets. So why is Apple skipping a continent that is primed and ready for only growth and profit? Its namely potential for growth and profit that startled investors when Apple reported earnings this week.

The fact is, Africa is flourishing. The World Bank predicts 5.6% growth for 2013. Apple just skipped that.

Obviously, IBM believes in Africa since it has made investments before, including technology for the South African railroad and providing a mainframe computer to Ghana. IBM recently opened a research center in Nairobi. It is the 12th of their centers around the world.

According to the director of IBM research, “the key thing is… the great growth story of Africa,” says Dr. Kamal Bhattacharya, “as scientists we believe that science and technology is an enabler to express your needs, it is an enabler to shape your own future.

Microsoft continues to invest in that future also with 14 offices across the continent. Plus, Microsoft operates the 4Afrika initiative that focuses on emboldening innovation, facilitating access to technology and transferring skills to the local workforce. As for the smartphone market, in early 2013, Microsoft announced a phone to be sold in African markets. It’s made by Huawei and uses Microsoft’s operating system.

It does not end with IBM and Microsoft. Other key market players also have a presence there including Nokia, Samsung and Google.

Why is Apple snubbing Africa as the middle class expands, there is unstoppable mobile phone market growth, greater access to the internet and increased access to education? One thing is for sure, change is happening in Africa with or without Apple. If nothing else, Apple investors should know they are missing a sought-after market.



iPhone 5s and 5c will be available on Friday, October 25 in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, French West Indies, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Reunion Island, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and Thailand. iPhone 5s and 5c will also be available on Friday, November 1 in Albania, Armenia, Bahrain, Colombia, El Salvador, Guam, Guatemala, India, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and UAE. Both iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c are currently available in the US, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore and the UK.


By Cayce Manesiotis


The New York Times


MIT Technology Review


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