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Rwanda Unleashes First Smartphones Made Entirely in Africa
The Mara Group has opened a new plant in Kigali to manufacture two smartphones, the Mara X and Mara Z.
The next cellphone in your pocket may be devoid of that ubiquitous "Made in China" lettering, opting instead for "Made in Rwanda," as the first-ever smartphone manufacturing plant opened in Kigali yesterday. The plant was launched by the Mara Group and will manufacture two smartphones, the Mara X and Mara Z.
The phones will be built on Android operating systems and are meant to compete with the likes of Samsung and Tecno—the current frontrunners of the African smartphone market. The phones will cost 175,750 Rwandan francs for the X model (about $190) and 120,250 Rwandan francs for the Z (about $130), Reuters reports. It's a lot steeper than what the competitors are offering, with smartphones available at prices as low as 35,000-50,000 Rwandan francs ($37-$54), but the CEO of Mara Group, Ashish Thakkar, says that they are targeting customers who would like a higher quality of smartphone. They have also made a partnership with local banks and firms that will allow consumers to pay for their phone over two years.
Thakkar says the presence of this plant is a step in the right direction for all of Africa to be present in technological and digital innovation and manufacturing, adding that while many companies assemble parts in African countries, they import the components from outside countries. "We are actually the first who are doing manufacturing. We are making the motherboards, we are making the sub-boards during the entire process," Thakkar said.
"In Africa, we don't manufacture anything. We assemble in a few countries, but we don't manufacture anything. We are the consumers but not the producers. 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 plant cost $24 million to build and will employ over 200 workers, making up to 1,200 phones per day, according to Africa Business Magazine. The hope is to improve the accessibility, and perhaps pride, in cell phones across Rwanda where smartphone use is currently at 15%. Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, who was present for the opening of the plant, had this to say about the intentions of the plant and the opportunity he hopes it holds for Rwandans: "The smartphone is no longer a luxury item, it is rapidly becoming a requirement of everyday life. The cost and quality is very important and the introduction of Mara Phones will put smartphone ownership within reach of more Rwandans."
Soon, Rwanda will not be the only African nation manufacturing smartphones locally, as Mara Group has announced that a second manufacturing plant will open in South Africa next week on October 17th.