According to Fast Company, Africa is working towards becoming more of tech hub. Tech company Mara Group, which has a new factory based in Rwanda, recently announced the release of two new smartphones.
The company itself is manufacturing these smartphones, the Mara X model, which enables 16G of storage at $130, and the Mara Z model, which enables 32G of storage at $190; both run on Google’s Android operating system, and include features such as high-spec cameras and voice activation mode.
Aside from producing smartphones, Mara Group is calling itself the first smartphone manufacturer in Africa, Fast Company says. Certain African nations currently assemble smartphones, such as Egypt and Algeria, and import all smartphone components. However, Mara Group will manufacture phones “from the motherboards to the packaging,” which will be completed in its new factory.
The new factory also has 200 employees; 90 percent of those employees are from Rwanda, and 60 percent are women.
Mara Group is expecting a high demand for its products, including its two new phones. Eddy Sebera, Mara Group’s country manager for Rwanda, said that the new factory can produce a “few million phones per year,” which is also expected to scale as demand boosts.
More Than Just a Phone
Ashish Thakkar, CEO of Mara Group, told CNN manufacturing these smartphones is addressing widespread need, and creates new opportunities. This would solve a pressing problem consumers frequently face: choose a high quality phone that wasn’t affordable, or a lesser quality phone for a cheaper price.
“We realized a few years ago that to create positive social impact on our continent…we need to have high quality and affordable smartphones,” Thakkar said. “This will enable financial inclusion.”
Additionally, the factory is providing jobs and enabling opportunities for Rwandans to develop tech and manufacturing skills. The factory also anticipates its employee number to jump from 200 to 500 in the next five years. Rwanda’s ICT Minister, Paula Ingabire, “expects domestic production to increase smartphone penetration by ‘at least 10 percent,’ which will improve access to services and ‘drive financial inclusion in rural communities through mobile financial services,’” according to CNN.
Finally, Ingabire says that the Mara Group will serve as a nice supplement to the government’s Digital Ambassadors Program, which “aims to achieve 100 percent literacy among youths aged 16 – 30, and for 60 percent of the adult population by 2024.”