The smartphone industry has always been dominated by companies from China, the US, and Korea. However, Rwanda has its eye on opening up Africa as a smartphone manufacturer. The Mara Group, based in Rwanda, launched two smartphones on Monday, describing them as the first “Made in Africa” smartphones.
The re are two different versions, the Mara X, which includes a 5.5 inch display and the Mara Z, which comes with a larger 5.7 inch Ultra HD display. Retailing at R2,720 and R3,860 respectively, both versions of the phone are running on the Android One operating software.
Mara’s closest competitors in the Rwandan mobile phone market are Samsung. The cheapest Samsung phone in Rwanda retails for about R820, with other non-brand phones retailing for R573. Despite the large disparity in price, Mara groups CEO Ashish Thakkar said the company would be “targeting customers who are willing to pay more for quality.”
The first smartphones rolled off the production line last week at the factory located in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali and are part of a larger “made in Rwanda” initiative.The chips and other phone components are all made in the factory. Along with producing Africas first smartphone, the factory employs about 200 locals, with 60 percent of employees being female.
Mara Phones production plant at the Kigali factory. (Twitter)
According to Business Insider Pulse, the number of smartphone owners in Rwanda have grown from 33 percent in 2010 to 52 percent in 2019.
Speaking at the launch ceremony, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said, “the smartphone is no longer a luxury item. It is rapidly becoming a requirement of everyday life. That trend is bound to increase in the years to come, as more and more services migrate to digital platforms.”
Mara Group intend on profiting from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement which is a pact aimed at forming a 55-nation trade hub to boost sales across the entirety of the African continent. The Country Manager for the firm told The New York Times that they were already in talks with partners from countries such as Angola, DR Congo and Kenya among others for exports.