REUTERS | Photos by OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, RWANDA
Rwanda’s Mara Group has launched two smartphones, describing them as the first “made in Africa” models and boosting the country’s ambitions to become a regional technology hub.
The Mara X and Mara Z will use Google’s Android operating system and cost $190 and $130, respectively.
They will compete with Samsung, whose cheapest branded smartphone costs $54, and nonbranded phones, which cost about $37. Mara Group CEO Ashish Thakkar said it was targeting customers willing to pay more for quality.
“We are actually the first who are doing manufacturing,” Thakkar said. “We are making the motherboards, we are making the sub-boards during the entire process. There are over 1,000 pieces per phone.”
Other companies assemble smartphones in Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa, but import the components, he said.
Thakker said the plant cost $50 million and could make 10,000 phones per day.
Mara Group hopes to profit from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, a pact aimed at forming a more-than-50-nation trade bloc to boost sales across Africa.
The agreement is due to begin trading in July 2020, aiming to unite 1.3 billion people and create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc. But it is still in the early stages, and no timelines have been agreed upon for abolishing tariffs.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame said he hoped the phone would increase Rwanda’s smartphone use, currently at about 15%.
“Rwandans are already using smartphones, but we want to enable many more,” Kagame said. “The introduction of Mara phones will put smartphones ownership within reach of more Rwandans.”