Rwanda launches ‘first made-in-Africa’ smartphones
Rwanda has opened Africa’ smartphones smartphone manufacturing plant in the capital, Kigali, in an event attended by President Paul Kagame.
Manufactured by technology company Mara Group – the Mara X and Mara Z smartphones – will use Google’s Android operating system and cost 175,750 Rwandan francs ($190; £155) and 120,250 Rwandan francs ($130;£106) respectively.
“This is the first ‘first made-in-Africa’smartphone manufacturer in Africa,” Mara Group CEO Ashish Thakkar told news agency Reuters during a tour of the plant on Monday.
The company was targeting customers willing to pay more for quality, Mr Thakkar said.
But most phones sold in Africa are from Chinese companies, which offer dual SIM cards and are cheaper than Mara’s planned price point.
Companies assemble smartphones in Egypt, Ethiopia, Algeria and South Africa, but import the components, Mr Thakkar said.
‘first made-in-Africa’ – They will compete with Samsung, whose cheapest smartphone costs 50,000 Rwandan francs ($54), and non-branded phones at 35,000 Rwandan francs ($37). Mara Group CEO Ashish Thakkar said it was targeting customers willing to pay more for quality.
“This is the first ‘first made-in-Africa’ smartphone manufacturer in Africa,” Thakkar told Reuters after touring the company alongside Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.
“We are actually the first who are doing manufacturing. We are making the motherboards, we are making the sub-boards during the entire process… There are over 1,000 pieces per phone,” he added.
He said the plant had cost $24m and could make 1,200 phones per day.
President Paul Kagame said this ‘first made-in-Africa’ smartphone would increase Rwanda’s smartphone usage, currently at around 15%.
The agreement is due to begin trading in July next year, aiming to unite 1.3 billion people and create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc. But it is still in the very early stages and no timelines have been agreed for abolishing tariffs.
“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.
Rwanda’s economy expanded at 8.6 percent in 2018 and headline inflation remained low at 1.2 percent as of March 2019, says the new World Bank Rwanda Economic Update released today. The report forecasts favorable economic outlook with growth expected to be in the range of 7.5 to 8 percent annually.
According to the report, Rwanda Economic Update: Lighting Rwanda, the growth was broad-based; with agriculture expanding by almost 6 percent while industries, supported by construction and manufacturing, grew by more than 10 percent, and the service sector recorded a 9 percent growth.
“Supported by conducive macroeconomic policies, Rwanda continues to enjoy a strong economic momentum characterized by high growth and low inflation,” said Aghassi Mkrtchyan, Senior Economist at the World Bank. “While public investments will continue to support the growth over the medium-term, Rwanda needs to strengthen its nascent private sector to stay on a high growth trajectory in the long-run”.
In its special focus on energy “Lighting Rwanda”, the 14th Rwanda Economic Update discusses the country’s achievements in expanding generation of and access to electricity and outlines the main challenges facing Rwanda in achieving its ambitions in expanding the power sector in a low-cost and fiscally sustainable manner.
The report established that Rwanda’s power sector has grown rapidly in the past decade and outpaced many of its peers in Sub-Saharan Africa. More than half of Rwandans have access to electricity in their home, compared to 10 percent in 2009. Generation capacity has more than tripled in the same period, and outages have become shorter and much less frequent.
“Rwanda’s energy sector has been a success story in the region that many are trying emulating. The five-fold increase in electricity access within ten years is almost unprecedented when compared with electricity access expansion in similar countries”, said Yasser El Gammal, World Bank Country Manager for Rwanda.
Despite this growth in the energy sector, the cost of electricity supply in Rwanda is among the highest in the region and remains a constraint for Rwanda’s economic and industrial development. Household consumers have problems affording electricity at the present tariffs, a problem that will be aggravated as the rural electrification drive reaches ever poorer parts of the population.
Supported by the World Bank and other development partners, the government has since 2017 implemented several reforms to make electricity service more affordable and ensure that it becomes an engine of economic growth and private-sector development.