GEORGE Ferreira is vice-president and chief operating officer at Samsung Electronics Africa.
SUMMIT TV: Samsung plans to double its share of the sub-Saharan smartphone market to 20% by next year. At its first Africa forum in 2010, it announced plans to grow its business in Africa to $10bn by 2015, so it has three years to go. Are you confident you will be able to meet this objective?
GEORGE FERREIRA: We are on the right track. If we look at the growth we are experiencing in South Africa and sub-Saharan East and West Africa, all the indications are that we are going to achieve this. Along the way there are, of course, several plans and strategies that we have to put in place to fuel our "Built for Africa" strategy, where we've taken some of our technology and re-engineered it to suit the needs of consumers in Africa.
STV: You've said you're planning for growth in three key regions, being East, West and Southern Africa. Is this still the case or are you looking to expand across other regions on the continent?
GF: Our most prominent markets are Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but what we've seen is a second tier of countries coming up, represented by the $200m countries - Senegal, Ghana, Angola, the Indian Ocean islands, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Sudan. We are placing huge emphasis on those countries to make sure we have team on the ground there to respond to the needs of consumers, making sure that we bring all our technology at the same time we launch globally - for example the Samsung Galaxy S3.
STV: Talking about Senegal and Ethiopia, are you investing in infrastructure for those launches?
GF: We are. In the past two years, we've tripled our human resources on the ground and opened branches that are now subsidiaries, such as Samsung West Africa and Samsung South Africa, and then we have the branches on the ground where we've put people to react and respond to the needs of our partners.
At the same time we are making huge strides with our distribution model and our partner ecosystem, taking all the products we have to our distributors. We have opened close to 500 brand shops across Africa and gadget shops, are helping retailers become organised and are partnering with the biggest retailers to make sure we have a presence in those channels across Africa.
STV: Where are you going to unlock more value?
GF: Our business with the government sector and the consumer is fuelled by our corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, which come together with our Built for Africa programme. If we look at the challenges we face in Africa with energy sources and high levels of dust and humidity, we re-engineer products such as air-conditioners that clean the air and improve health. Then there's triple protection against power fluctuation, which means the equipment lasts longer.
Samsung TV sets have built-in surge protectors, and our new range of fridges stay cooler for longer even with the power off. We make sure our products are smarter for the African consumer. On the education side we have the Samsung Solar-Powered Internet School in a container that was unveiled in Nelson Mandela's hometown, Qunu, which then went to the energy conference in Durban and to Victoria Falls to the Southern African Development Community education ministers' conference. There is such a big vibe around this because it can take education to the remotest areas. We also have netbooks that are solar powered.
STV: When it comes to smartphones, there have been rumours that your growing dominance could lead to the loss of control by Google of the Android platform. Would Samsung create its own Android ecosystem?
GF: We believe in partnerships. Android has been very good to us in that we are doing very well with that platform, but we are agnostic and also look at other operating systems, with our own called Bada and Windows Mobile from Microsoft. Our flagship is definitely Android and we have dominated in that space, being the number-one smartphone manufacturer globally in 2011. In 2012 so far, we are the number-one cellphone manufacturer in the world, overtaking Nokia. We are encouraged by these results and this will help us pursue our dreams for Africa.
STV: Your devices are state of the art and great quality, but there are questions around pricing. Are you pricing for the African market?
GF: We are. Top-of-the-range devices such as the Galaxy S3 are launching now, but at the same time there is the Galaxy Pocket - an entry-level smartphone built for Africa with all the bells and whistles. The difference is processing power with a smaller chipset and less memory and a smaller screen, which is typically where the cost lies. We are convinced our entry-level smartphone will cater for the needs of Africans who want to get connected.