Mi-Fone, the “first African Mobile Devices brand“, has been operating on the African continent since 2008 when it was established. It’s products which range from mobile phones to portable chargers have been marketed and sold under the “Mi” brand. These include devices like the Mi 3000 which was touted as the first feature phone on the continent with 60 day battery life, the Android Gingerbread-powered Mi A200 which we really liked back then and even an Obama phone! The Mi-Obama was one of the company’s first devices and it was meant to ride on the Obamamania that had gripped the world when Barack Obama was sworn in as the first African-American President of the United States just before Mi-Fone was established.
Recently, Xiaomi, the fastest growing smartphone vendor in the world, announced its plans to enter the African market this September. Xiaomi has been marketing and selling its products under the “Mi” brand as well in the Asian market and beyond. These include devices like the Mi Note, Mi Note Pro and Mi 4 smartphones among others. This is where the contention is.
Mi-Fone which has already established itself on the continent is challenging Xiaomi’s entry into the African market citing trademark infringement. It is already using the “Mi” brand and has rights to it and since Xiaomi plans to introduce the Red Mi and the Mi 4 smartphones first, this could complicate matters. The company has issued legal letters to the Chinese device maker, currently ranked amongst the top 5 smartphone vendors in the world, and its African distributors, Mobile Africa Limited, protesting plans to introduce “Mi”-branded products on the continent.
Mi-Fone also cites its early involvement in the African market with the Mi brand since it was established at least two years before Xiaomi set up shop in China.
“It is great that companies want to come into Africa and realise the potential of African smartphone growth, but it is our duty as a relatively small indigenous 100% African owned company to stand up for our rights as the first original registered owners of the “mi and mi-Fone “ names in Africa. I would have hoped that big companies like this would have done their due diligence before announcing their proposed entry into Africa.” – Mi-Fone CEO Alpesh Patel
Mi-Fone was recently acquired by an unnamed “public listed African company” and plans to solidify its presence in the 15 African countries it currently operates by unveiling new products in markets like Kenya and also expanding its operations to other African countries.