It is now official, Keneth Oyolla the current General Manager of Nokia Eastern and Sourthern Africa is leaving Nokia, destination still unknown. This is coming barely a few month after the charismatic Dorothy Ooko formerly in charge of the PR and Communication in the East and Central Africa left Nokia for Google. You might need to pause to ask if the wheel is coming off Nokia Kenya, why the high profile moves almost at the same time? The truth is Nokia Office in Nairobi is being downgraded, and from the near future all the Eastern and Southern Africa operations will be run from South Africa..
Oyolla instead of sticking around as the General Manager with less budget and no influence has decided to walk away. First reported by E63 Club. That will leave only Ms. Agatha Gikunda in charge of the Developers relation, as the remaining high profile personnel on the ground. Agatha’s position is more secure owing to the fact that, one of the Nokia’s research centers is based in Nairobi. My understanding is that the research center operates as an independent office and it does not necessarily fall under Agatha’s department but there some correlation in what she is doing with the developers In Kenya and the researchers at the center.
The decision to degrade Kenyan office came from above… yeah, that is disappointing, at the time when Kenya is highly competing with South Africa as the number one hub of tech in Africa. But the truth be told Kenya has the talents but still don’t have the resources to match South Africa but that is a story for another day. Back to the point at hand what is really going on here with Nokia? Why degrade the Nairobi’s Office while most companies are rushing to establish their Africa Headquarters here? Has the Nokia Kenya team failed or is it a case of cost cutting… The way i look at it, Kenyan Office has never had any clout when comes to decision making about Kenyan Market affairs. I think most of the decisions were made in the larger context of the developing world, mostly considered to be China, India , Brazil and to some extent South Africa.If you look at it critically any decision made with India or South Africa in mind might not perfectly work in Kenya, and most Africa countries. South Africa market operates in the model of Europeans market and for a long time they did not consider themselves Africans. It is the same reason why majority of the South Africa companies find it tough operating in Kenya and in most cases end up closing shops..
Take for example the issue of the operator billing which many of the Kenyan tech experts and developers have advocated for, for sometime now. Nothing in that front has been delivered despite Nokia Office in Kenya frequent use of the phrase “coming soon” whenever they were asked. And that has caused the situation where Kenya has the highest number of the Apps on the Ovistore but with little to show in the money end. Kenyan developers simply can’t make money on the Ovistore coz they still can’t figure out how. It is one thing to have thousands and thousands downloads as many Kenyan developers would tell you, but if you can’t make money out those downloads, i don’t see the point of it all.
What Next for Nokia in Kenya and Africa.
With Oyolla gone, Dorothy gone and the office gone, what next for Nokia in Kenya? Nokia still has firm hold of the Kenyan market but i think they are going to lose out big time after the next big switch. Are you wondering what i mean by that? Yeah the next switch is around the corner. For a long time Nokia concentrated in making mobile phones meant for lower end market popurlaly known as Series 40. The thinking has been that in places like Africa, people can not afford Smartphones. For that Nokia so far has not made any Smartphone meant for the low end consumers despite the success we have seen with Ideos phone and Samsung Galaxy Mini. Ideos cost around Ksh.8000 in Kenya while Samsung Galaxy mini goes for Ksh.15000 , now compare that with Nokia E6 Ksh.33K, Nokia N8 Ksh.39K, Nokia E7 Ksh 45K. One would argue that the mentioned Nokia phones are the high end of the Nokia phone families but the truth is the experience of using Ideos is better than all of them at the current state(Symbian OS). Nokia needs to start selling Windows phones like yesterday, and that include the phones that can be afforded by average Africans.
Yes about that big switch…Do you remember the time when the only people who could afford Nokia 3310 were big CEOS, the Land Grabbers, and the so called who is who in Kenyan rich list? Ok if you are born in the Kibaki’s time, just know there was a time like that. Then what happened? Now nobody wants to be even be seen with Nokia 3310. There will come a time when everyone can afford the smartphones, and that time will mark the big switch i am talking about. For me that is the time Nokia will lose out in Africa as Samsung and Huawei and other Phone makers are already becoming competitive more so on the Smartphones front.
Nokia should stop thinking that Africa is made for Series 40 phones and start making real Smartphones for Africa. Developing world remain their stronghold and it will be sad to see them losing here too.