NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 9 – The world’s largest mobile handset manufacturer Nokia is eyeing the opportunities that exist in Kenya in the mobile application arena to scale up its product development undertakings.
Visiting Nokia President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Elop told Capital Business that the country has a huge pool of talented mobile app developers that they can tap into to enhance research and development.
“Kenya is a key focal point for our research and development activities for a lot of Africa and India,” he said.
“It is the case that we have the Nokia Research Centre which is the only such facility in the continent where we make plans and designing the next generation of activities,” he added.
With that many opportunities, Capital Business sought to know why the company would downgrade the Nairobi office from a regional headquarters to a sales office.
Elop however explained that what happened last year was a conscious decision by the company to increase its investments in order to position it to capture the opportunities for growth.
“If you compare what we will be investing in Kenya and East Africa this year versus last year, you will see an increase of 25 percent. Some people have seen that we have moved people around to different locations and turned that into a negative but in fact we did that because we saw an opportunity to help people,” he said in defence of last year’s move that saw South Africa named as the new Nokia headquarters in Africa.
These opportunities will see the handset manufacturer partner with the government to address the problems facing the country such as in health care, agriculture or in education through the mobile technology.
“The mobile device for most people in Africa is the first digital experience whether it’s to make a phone call or text their friends or to surf the internet. So what’s on all of our minds is how we use that environment to improve people’s lives,” he explained.
While at it, Nokia wants to provide opportunities for Kenyan developers to deliver their apps all over the world.
Although it looks that the company has everything going on for it in Nairobi and the larger African market, Nokia has not been performing so well globally.
In 2011, the mobile industry giant posted a net loss of 1.2 billion euros compared to a net profit of 1.8 billion euros in 2010 while sales dipped by 21 percent to 10 billion euros.
He however said that they intend to shake off the poor performance and have adopted a strategic shift from solely focusing on hardware to one that looks at software and services.
“All of those things together is our promise to our consumers,” he pledged.
The firm has been undertaking some restructuring that has seen over 4,000 factory workers in its smartphone manufacturing facilities in Finland, Hungary and Mexico lose their jobs.
“It turns out that the vast majority of the suppliers for our assembly operations are in Asia and so it makes more sense to put the assembly work right next to the suppliers,” Elop explained.
This strategy is expected to come in handy and enable them wade off competition as has been vindicated by the success of their latest phone Nokia Lumia 900 which debuted in the Consumer Electronic Show in the US and was voted the best device.
With such kind of positive feedback, Elop hopes that Nokia will soon be able to reclaim its spot as world’s best and also have this reflected in its books.