A private company, Mara Phones, has opened a smartphone manufacturing plant in Kigali, blazing a trail in Africa in the local production of electronic goods.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame Monday inaugurated what is being described as Africa’s “first high tech smartphone factory” in the country’s capital city. He commended the drive towards affordable smartphones and underlined the need to boost the adoption of high-tech products in his country.
Mara Phone, a Smartphone maker owned by the Dubai-headquartered, pan-African conglomerate Mara Group, hopes to pioneer a brand of African-made smartphones. Mara says the factory would deliver “high quality smartphones at an affordable price” for the local market and the region.
Mara is producing two types of smartphone in Rwanda: The Mara X with 16GB storage space will retail for $130, while the more advanced Mara Z model with 32GB storage for around $190, the company said.
With the two models on sale, the Android phones are hoping to compete with Asian manufacturers like Tecno and Samsung that currently dominate Africa’s markets.
“The cost and quality is very important and the introduction of Mara Phones will put smartphone ownership within reach of more Rwandans,” CEO Ashish Thakkar said, speaking at the launch. He described his new factory as “historic” due to its position as the first smartphone manufacturing plant on the continent.
“In Africa, we don’t manufacture anything,” said Thakkar.
“We assemble in a few countries, but we don’t manufacture anything. We are the consumers but not the producers. When we first told people about Mara Phone they told us we were crazy and that it wasn’t possible. Our true belief in Africa, particularly Rwanda, is a dream come true. This is a historic moment which will help shift the narrative for Rwanda, Africa and the rest of the world.”
The Mara Group is set to launch its next Mara Phone factory in South Africa on 17 of October.
Africa’s largest smartphone maker is Transsion, a Chinese company dominating the continent with its Tecno brand. The Shenzhen-based company doesn’t do business in China, despite being based there but it controls a huge part of the smartphone market in Africa, where it has more than 50% market share.