Rwanda’s Mara Group launches first ‘Made in Africa’ smartphones
Kigali — Rwanda’s Mara Group launched two smartphones on Monday, describing them as the first “Made in Africa” models and giving a boost to the country’s ambitions to become a regional technology hub.
The Mara X and Mara Z will use Google’s Android operating system and cost 175,750 Rwandan francs ($190) and 120,250 Rwandan francs ($130) respectively.
Samsung’s cheapest smartphone in the country costs 50,000 Rwandan francs ($54), and nonbranded phones are 35,000 Rwandan francs ($37).
Mara Group CEO Ashish Thakkar said the company was targeting customers “willing to pay more for quality”.
“This is the first smartphone manufacturer in Africa,” Thakkar said after touring the company with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Companies assemble smartphones in Egypt, Ethiopia and Algeria but import the components, he said.
“We are actually the first who are doing manufacturing. We are making the motherboards, we are making the sub-boards during the entire process,” he said. “There are over 1,000 pieces per phone.” Thakkar said the plant had cost $24m and could make 1,200 phones per day.
Thakkar announced in November 2018 that his company would invest R1.5bn in a South African venture over the next five years to build “affordable” smartphones, according to Businesstech.
At the time he said the phones would also be sold in Europe. The project is in partnership with Google.
Mara Group hopes to profit from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, a pact aimed at forming a 55-nation trade bloc, to boost sales across Africa, Thakkar said.
The agreement aims to create a $3.4-trillion economic bloc. But it is still in the early stages and no timelines are in place yet to abolish tariffs.
Kagame said he hoped the phone would increase Rwanda’s smartphone usage, which was at about 15%.
“Rwandans are already using smartphones but we want to enable many more. The introduction of Mara phones will put smartphones ownership within reach of more Rwandans,” Kagame said.