Rwandaâ€™s Mara Group launched two smartphones on Monday, describing them as the first â€œMade in Africaâ€ models and giving a boost to the countryâ€™s ambitions to become a regional technology hub.
The Mara X and Mara Z will use Googleâ€™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 smartphone costs 50,000 Rwandan francs ($54), and non-branded phones at 35,000 Rwandan francs ($37). Mara Group CEO Ashish Thakkar said it was targetting customers willing to pay more for quality.
â€œThis is the first smartphone manufacturer in Africa,â€ Thakkar told Reuters after touring the company alongside Rwandaâ€™s President Paul Kagame.
Companies assemble smartphones in Egypt, Ethiopia, Algeria and South Africa, but import the components, he said.
â€œWe are actually the first who are doing manufacturing. We are making the motherboards, we are making the sub-boards during the entire process,â€ he said. â€œThere are over 1,000 pieces per phone.â€
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 Rwandaâ€™s smartphone usage, currently at around 15%.
â€œRwandans 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,â€ Kagame said.