Despite its smartphone usage standing at just 15%, Rwanda has become the first African country to manufacture smartphones meant to compete with other leading global manufacturers, getting a foot in the door to become one of Africa’s tech powerhouses.

Rwanda’s Mara Group launched two new devices on 7 October, in the hopes of competing with the South Korean tech behemoth, Samsung. Speaking alongside the country’s President, Paul Kagame, Mara Group CEO Ashish Thakkar introduced the Mara X and Mara Z, calling the devices the first “Made in Africa” models. Both devices run Google’s Android operating system.

Unlike other companies that import components and assemble smartphones in Algeria, South Africa and Egypt, Mara manufactures all components used in their devices in a $24 million plant, which can manufacture up to 1,200 smartphones every day.

“We are actually the first who are doing manufacturing. We are making the motherboards, we are making the sub-boards during the entire process. There are over 1,000 pieces per phone,” said Thakkar.

Aside from competing with the big guns in smartphone manufacturing, Rwanda’s president hopes that the addition of the Mara phones will expand his own country’s smartphone usage.

“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 at the launch.

The Mara X and Mara Z sell for 175,750 Rwandan francs (approximately R2,878) and 120,250 Rwandan francs (approximately R1,969) respectively. These smartphones will compete with the cheapest Samsung (selling for approximately R820) and non-branded (selling for approximately R574) devices on the market, and are, according to Thakkar, aimed at customers who are willing to pay a little more for quality smartphones.


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