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Understanding technology diffusion in emerging markets: The case of Chinese mobile devices in Nigeria

Sunday Adewale Olaleye (Department of Marketing, Management and International Business, Oulu Business School, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland)
Dandison Ukpabi (Marketing Department, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Heikki Karjaluoto (Marketing Department, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Ioannis Rizomyliotis (University of Brighton Business School, Brighton, UK)

International Journal of Emerging Markets

ISSN: 1746-8809

Article publication date: 12 February 2019

Issue publication date: 22 November 2019



The purpose of this paper is to use the consumer-based discrepancy theory to examine consumers’ behavioral motivations for using mobile devices and the factors that influence the rapid diffusion of Chinese mobile devices in Nigeria.


Data were collected using focus group interviews with samples cutting across users, technicians and experts from Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s industrial capital. This study conducted a thematic analysis of the data with NVivo Pro 11 for deductive coding.


The authors found that weak regulatory environment opened the Nigerian mobile market to the influx of mobile devices from Chinese local manufacturers. Though largely absent in developed markets, Chinese mobile devices are household names in Africa, particularly Nigeria. Having studied the Nigerian market, Chinese mobile device manufacturers have incorporated features and specifications in their mobile devices that are adapted specifically to this market. Our findings also show that these “China phones and tablets” are significantly inferior to those manufactured by global brands. However, consumer complaints have led to significant improvements in their quality. Consequently, due to their successful diffusion, Nigeria is being used as a launching pad to other African countries.

Research limitations/implications

While the study could not look at the economic, environmental and health implications of the high death rate of the mobile devices, it however provides useful insights on the application of the consumer-based discrepancy theory: expectation vs performance, in the Nigerian mobile market context.


The study is the first to empirically examine the diffusion of Chinese mobile devices in one of the key emerging markets in Africa. The study provides blueprint for the local regulatory authorities on how to strengthen their regulatory oversight and also advances critical understanding on how Chinese mobile device manufacturers can improve their technologies and optimize market opportunity in Africa.



Olaleye, S.A., Ukpabi, D., Karjaluoto, H. and Rizomyliotis, I. (2019), "Understanding technology diffusion in emerging markets: The case of Chinese mobile devices in Nigeria", International Journal of Emerging Markets, Vol. 14 No. 5, pp. 731-751.



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