Rwanda’s Mara Group has launched two smart phones describing them as the first “Made in Africa” models and giving a boost to 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 175,750 Rwandan francs ($190) and 120,250 Rwandan francs ($130) respectively.
They will compete with Samsung, whose cheapest smart phone costs 50,000 Rwandan francs ($54), and non-branded phones at 35,000 Rwandan francs ($37).
Mara Group chief executive officer, Ashish Thakkar said it was targeting customers willing to pay more for quality.
“This is the first smart phone manufacturer in Africa, said Thakkar after a tour of the company alongside Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.
“Companies assemble smart phones in Egypt, Ethiopia, Algeria and South Africa, but import the components.
“We are actually the first who are doing manufacturing. We are making the mother boards, we are making the sub-boards during the entire process. There are over 1,000 pieces per phone,” he said.
Thakkar said the plant had cost $24 million and could make 1,200 phones per day.
Mara Group hopes to profit from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, a pact aimed at forming a 55-nation trade bloc, to boost sales across Africa, Thakkar said.
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.
Kagame said he hoped the phone would increase Rwanda’s smart phone usage, currently at around 15%. “Rwandans are already using smart phones but we want to enable many more. The introduction of Mara phones will put smart phones ownership within reach of more Rwandans,” Kagame said.