Rwanda is putting its money where its mouth is, and betting big on Africa. By April 2019, Rwanda will, once again, be at the very forefront of Africa's digital revolution.
Paula Ingabire, Rwanda’s minister for information and communications technology (ICT) and innovation, announced that a smartphone manufacturing plant will be opened in Rwanda by Mara Corporation, making it the first country in Africa to locally manufacture full-scale phones.
"Smartphones are important ICT tools since there are some digital services that only require smartphones, such as access to land services among others. There is also a need to ensure affordability of smartphones whose high cost prevents citizens from benefiting from various digital services. We hope that the plant to locally produce smartphones will boost access.
Once the factory starts producing smartphones, people will be paying in instalments over a period of 24 months. We also have to work with telecommunication companies to seek ways of reducing prices on internet use, which will boost ICT penetration and digital services."
Mara Phones, under Mara Company, will begin production by April 2019, and it will provide close to 20,000 jobs. Mr. Thakkar, the Ugandan investor and CEO of Mara Corporation, dropped hints about the plans last year at the Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg:
"China has Huawei, Xiaomi; U.S has iPhone; and, finally, Africa will Maraphone. 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.
We have a few that are assembled in Africa but nothing is truly being manufactured in Africa."
Like Mr Thakkar mentioned, a few smartphones had been assembled in Africa: Kenya set aside millions of dollars, South Africa's Onyx released the first African-made smartphone, and Egypt's SICO produced the Nile X.
The Mara phones 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. Mr. Thakkar also alluded that a second plant will be built in South Africa.
Rwanda is the true giant of Africa.