GPS companies are keen to penetrate the African market. in the autumn of 2013, TomTom said that it now covers all 54 African countries with its GPS services – directions and road signage for 7m kilometres of African roads.
What is more, the leading GPS company has tailored its main product line, the GO series, to the African market by marking both old and new street names – as many roads in African countries have changed name with infrastructure improvements, but locals often still refer to them by their old name.
The map for the GPS service is also interactive, 3D and touch-sensitive, and there is an emphasis on user-friendliness, with the ability to zoom in and out and easily plot out maps with a few easy swipes of the fingertips.
Another feature of its main product series is “lifetime” traffic updates, which identify the exact location of traffic delays – a serious advantage in the congested African cities. The GO series was launched with three screen-size options – 11 cm, 13 cm and 15 cm dimensions. The firm has also introduced a smart phone-connected range that allows users to connect through Bluetooth to obtain updates about traffic and speed cameras.
Garmin, the world leader in satellite navigations, has also been seeking to consolidate its presence in Africa by making changes to its structure on the continent. It recently acquired Garmin Distribution Africa, which was the country’s Southern Africa distributor, as well as the satellite navigation systems provider Garmap. Although Garmin Distribution Africa’s headquarters and warehouse close to Johannesburg remains in location, it has taken on the name Garmin Southern Africa.
“We are pleased to complete this acquisition and we welcome our South African team into the Garmin family,” said Garmin CEO, Dr Min Kao. “This transaction will strengthen Garmin’s presence in this rapidly growing region and we look forward to closely supporting our retailers and customers in South Africa.”
In October 2013, the company also announced that it had chosen Car & General as their distributor in East Africa. Car & General is an established distributor in the region, with a presence in 11 countries in East Africa.
“We are pleased to announce this partnership and we welcome Car & General into the Garmin family,” said Walter Mech, Garmin’s managing director in sub-Saharan Africa. “This partnership will strengthen Garmin’s presence in this rapidly growing region and we look forward to supporting our partners and customers in East Africa closely,” he adds.
Garmin’s leading in-car GPS products on sale in Africa include the nüvi 52LM Essential Widescreen GPS navigator. The product’s features include Lane Assist with Junction View, which help users to turn correctly when trying to get from A to B, and lifetime maps for free.
The Southern African version covers over 917,000 kilometres of roads for seven countries – South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi and Namibia. It also highlights more than 310,000 points of interest. Extras include voice-prompted turn-by-turn directions so users can hear street names as they drive to their destination and automatically recorded information such as mileage or time taken to complete a journey. In other words, the firm is offering top-of-the-range, high-technology products to the African market. The product has a price tag of 1,649 rand ($153) and also offers a cheaper model, the nüvi 42LM, which comes in a smaller screen size (4.3 inch instead of 5 inch) and sells for 1349 rand ($125).