KIGALI – Rwanda’s Mara Group launched two smartphones on Oct 7, 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 (RM795) and 120,250 Rwandan francs (RM545) respectively. Mara Group CEO Ashish Thakkar said it was targeting customers willing to pay more for quality.
“This is the first smartphone manufacturer in Africa,” Thakkar told Reuters after touring the company alongside Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.
Comanies assemble smartphones in Egypt, Ethiopia, Algeria and South Africa, but import the components, he said.
Thakkar said the plant had cost US$24mil (RM100.60mil) 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 US$3.4tril (RM14.25tril) 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 smartphone usage, currently at around 15%.
“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.