Dubai's trade in mobile handset re-exports continues to send out strong signals to its feeder markets. Of late, this dominance has even been extended to used handsets.
Exports are happening through small traders — many are Iranians who are sending a lot of stock to Africa, according to Hamza Salim, IDC's senior research analyst for handsets, Middle East and Africa.
During 2009, a whopping Dh16.3 billion (NZ$5.5 billion) worth of mobile phones passed through the UAE's ports, with September alone recording 2,000 tonnes of these devices, valued at Dh180 million.
Most of the new handsets reaching local ports are shipped to Iran, which, with its population of 73 million, is a huge end-user market, but owing to UN sanctions, cannot buy directly from handset manufacturers.
An estimate from the IDC suggests a UAE demand for 3.5 million handsets annually, of which around 25% end up as re-exports to Africa, Iran and some of the Levant markets. Meanwhile, substantial volumes that never leave the port are shipped out directly to the rest of the Gulf and the Middle East.
The UAE, and Dubai in particular, is a major — and perhaps the leading — transit point for mobile handsets coming into the region and beyond, including sub-Saharan Africa, according to Matthew Reed, editor for the Middle East and Africa at Informa Telecoms and Media.
Most iPhone and other Apple devices, as well as HTC phones, are brought in from China where they are manufactured, Islam Siraj, the iPhone manager at 050, a handset retailer in Naif, was quoted saying.
The main importing markets are represented by Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya.
Another re-export market rising to prominence is Jordan.