As the coronavirus pandemic suppressed business activity, Africa and the Middle East experienced a year-over-year, 10.2 percent decline in shipments of personal computing devices during the first quarter of 2020, with South Africa suffering the biggest drop, according to IDC.\nIDC's Quarterly PC Tracker report shows that 4.4 million units were shipped across the Africa and Middle East region in the first quarter this year -- the lowest number since the third quarter of 2009. The rest of the year is not likely to be better, the market research company said.\nPersonal computing devices include desktops, notebooks, workstations, and tablets. The outbreak of the coronavirus at the start of the year forced the closure of several factories in China, causing a supply shortage of these devices, with subsequent lockdown measures then suppressing business activity and end-user demand across the Middle East and Africa, IDC said.\nOther factors were at work in South Africa, however. While almost all countries in the region saw a decline in shipments of personal computing device, South Africa was hit hardest, according to the IDC report.\nSouth Africa's weak rand impacts market\n"With pre-existing economic challenges such as a low business confidence and high unemployment levels, the situation worsened as the South African rand weakened against the U.S. dollar during the quarter, making imports of all products\u2014including personal computing devices\u2014more expensive," said IDC's Fouad Charakla in a press release accompanying the report.\n"The future holds much uncertainty as a lot depends on how quickly the spread of the COVID-19 virus itself can be controlled," Charakla said. Current conditions across the Africa and Middle East region, however, suggest that the business slowdown caused by the pandemic will depress personal-device shipments for the second quarter, leading to a year-over-year decline for all of 2020.\nAs CIOs face pressure to cut budgets, however, cloud computing is likely to offer a bright spot. Cloud spending across Africa and the Middle East will increase to $2.8 billion this year, and is forecast to increase to approximately $6.5 billion by 2024, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24 percent, up from the 22 percent rate that was projected prior to the coronavirus outbreak, IDC said in a separate report. That's because the pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital transformation for business continuity, IDC's Jyoti Lalchandani said in a press release.\nThe growing presence of public cloud data centres in South Africa will help fuel uptake not only within the country's borders, but throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Amazon has said they will be opening their first hyperscale cloud data centre in the region mid-year, in Cape Town. In addition, Microsoft opened two data centres in 2019, Huawei began offering its cloud services through a data centre that it is leasing in Johannesburg and Oracle made a pledge that they would be in the country with a cloud data centre sometime in 2020.\nRemote work buoys notebook demand\n IDC\n IDC\n\nOtherwise, in the personal devices category, the decline in shipments was not uniform across the various types of computers. "With widespread work-from-home policies enacted by organizations across the region, many employees had to be equipped with notebooks to facilitate their ability to work remotely," Charakla said. "As a result, the demand for notebooks suffered less than the demand for desktops, as many organizations requested for their desktop orders to be changed to notebooks. Similarly, with schools closing down, there was a slight surge in demand for notebooks and tablets in some parts of the region to facilitate remote learning."\nIn the PC market, HP, Lenovo and Dell maintained their top rankings, though HP's share of the market shrank while Lenovo gained ground, IDC said. In the tablet arena, Samsung managed to maintain its top position and increase its market share at the expense of Huawei. Numbers for individual countries were not immediately available.