Samar Mohamed El Sayed, Senior Research Analyst, IDC Egypt
Given ongoing economic slowdown in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, it is now more important than ever for print vendors and channels to adopt new approaches to sustain a competitive advantage. According to IDC’s Hardcopy Peripherals Tracker, the MEA hardcopy peripherals market declined to 4.95 million units worth $1.81 billion in 2016, down 8.4% and 9.4% year on year, respectively. Egypt experienced one of the sharpest declines in the region, with shipments falling 15.1% to 158,605 units and revenue contracting 17.4% to $64.7 million.
While hardcopy print is still a sizeable business across MEA, the growing digitalization of documents and workflows is lowering the volume of pages being printed. Devices have also become more standardized, with limited innovation now taking place in the market, particularly in the laser technology space. As a result, end users are postponing their purchase decisions, preferring to service and keep their existing printing equipment rather than purchase new devices. This trend is especially evident in the Egyptian market.
It is in this regard that IDC anticipates restrained growth for print hardware devices in the MEA region over the next five years. The market is expected to total 5.22 million units worth $1.96 billion in 2021. And in line with global trends, hardware growth will be slower than software and services growth in terms of overall IT spending.
According to IDC’s Managed Print and Document Services Tracker, the print services market in Egypt totaled $7.46 million in H1 2016, which is relatively small when compared with the transactional market. Nevertheless, demand for print services within the country is growing at a fast pace. IDC projects that this demand for print services in Egypt will continue to grow as end users realize the efficiency and cost-saving benefits of print services for business operations. Local OEM vendors will also continue to focus on offering customized solutions to their customers, especially within the healthcare, energy, and telecommunications sectors.
The transition from providing hardcopy hardware to supplying customized print solutions is a costly exercise in any market. The support of OEM print vendors is therefore crucial as the channel cannot single-handedly hire, train, and maintain the sales personnel, engineers, and consultants needed to service clients.
Nevertheless, the channel will always be in the best position to push managed services, largely because it provides consistent feedback on local market conditions and plays a key role in influencing end-user purchasing decisions. The channel can also proactively identify and offer solutions that best serve the requirements of the end user in question, ultimately enhancing the way business is done.
The print market’s evolution toward print services will impact the role of the print channel, which will now be expected to provide IT solutions instead of standardized print devices. As the print hardware market continues to face challenges, the time has come to consider changing the way business is done.