Rwanda has birthed Africa’s first ever made smartphones, calls it Mara.
Mara X and Mara Y smartphones were launched on October 7th by Rwanda’s Mara group in Kigali.
This is the first of its kind to be manufactured in Africa as against just assembling as were the order of the day. “This is the first smartphone manufacturer in Africa,” Thakkar told Reuters after touring the company alongside Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.
Prior to now, “companies assemble smartphones in Egypt, Ethiopia, Algeria and South Africa, but import the components”
But now ” We are actually the first who are doing manufacturing. We are making the motherboards, we are making the sub-boards during the entire process,” said Mara Group CEO Ashish Thakkar. “There are over 1,000 pieces per phone.”
The smartphones will use Google’s Android Operating System and it’s expected to compete with world’s first smartphone maker Samsung whose cheapest phone is 50,000 Rwandan Francs ($54), and other non-branded smartphones at 35,000 Rwandan francs ($37).
The Mara X and Y will cost 175,750 Rwandan francs ($190) and 120,250 Rwandan francs ($130) respectively, with target on quality.
Thakkar said the manufacturing plant had cost $24 million and could make 1,200 phones per day.
To boost sales across Africa, Mara Group says it hopes to profit from the African Continental Free Trade Agreements that’s aimed at forming a 55-nation trade bloc, aiming to unite 1.3 billion people and create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc. But it’s still in the very early stages and no timelines have been agreed for abolishing tariffs.Thakkar said.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame is arguably one of the few who believes that tech is a critical tool for the diversification of the Rwandan economy.
His investments in tech is a proof that tech and startup is the engine for economic development in Rwanda.
Kagame hopes that introduction of Mara phones will make smartphones available to many more Rwandans.
“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.