As China has Huawei, Xiaomi; U.S has the iPhone; and, finally, Africa has Maraphone. Mara Corporation, making Rwanda the first country on the young continent of Africa to locally manufacture full scale phones. This project will show the potential and ability that Africa can produce high quality and affordable smartphones in Africa, by Africans, for Africans and for the rest of the world. Before this development Africa have few that are been assembled on the continent but nothing is truly being manufactured in Africa.
Mara is not the first company to claim to have produced the first African made smartphone but included imported parts. Before now, Rwandan government has collaborated with telecommunication companies to seek ways of reducing prices on internet use, which will boost ICT penetration and digital services. The east African country, once again, is at the very forefront of Africa’s digital revolution.
On Monday, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda officiated the Africa’s first high tech smartphone factory in the country’s capital Kigali. President Kagame hailed the launch as another breakthrough for development in Rwanda, which has enjoyed rapid economic growth in recent years and gained a reputation as a hub of innovation.
Mara is producing two types of smartphone in Rwanda: The Mara X with 16GB storage space will retail for 120,250 francs ($130), while the more advanced Mara Z model with 32GB storage is on sale for around 175,750 francs ($190). Both phones include features such as high-spec cameras and voice activation mode. The smartphones will be among the first devices to run Android Oreo, an OS optimized for apps like YouTube Go, Facebook Lite and Twitter Lite that are made for the African market.The devices are now available via Mara’s website and stores in Kigali.
The number of employees is projected to rise from around 200 to more than 500 by its fifth year of operation. The minister also expects domestic production to increase smartphone penetration by “at least 10%,” which will improve access to services and “drive financial inclusion in rural communities through mobile financial services.”
Ingabire adds that the Mara plant will complement the government’s ambitious. Digital Ambassadors Program, which aims to achieve 100% digital literacy among youths aged 16-30 and for 60% of the adult population by 2024.
Mara Phones, a subsidiary company of the Mara Group owned by businessman Ashish J. Thakkar, has built a high tech smartphone manufacturing facility in Kigali’s Special Economic Zone, Rwanda.
We realized a few years ago that to create positive social impact on our continent and in emerging markets we need to have high quality and affordable smartphones. Thats when we came up with Mara Phones, Ashish Thakkar said during the launch.
Ashish Thakkar, 38, is the founder of Mara Group, a Dubai-based, African-focused conglomerate with interests in the technology, financial services, manufacturing, real estate & agriculture industries.
Thakkar once described his new factory as historic due to its position as the first smartphone manufacturing plant on the continent.