At a time when developing countries are getting weary of the tag ‘developing’ and striving to be become part of the developed, Rwanda is timely set to open Africa’s first smartphone factory by April, 2019. bY 201Stores



This is our win too. Yes, it is. Africans are one. Kenya set aside millions of dollars, South Africa’s Onyx released the first African-made smartphone, and Egypt’s SICO produced the Nile X.

Rwanda, with the Mara Phone, joins the club this year. Africa’s digital revolution is here in earnest and by April 2019, Rwanda could be at the forefront of a technological revolution in Africa. Rwanda is a country that was plagued with many years of civic unrest and incessant wars but have chosen to leverage on their resources and global advancement to create a better nation.

The postwar government has placed high priority on development, opening water taps in the most remote areas, providing free and compulsory education, and promoting progressive environmental policies. Their Vision 2020 development policy has the aim of achieving a service-based society by 2020, with a significant middle class.

There is remarkably little corruption in the country. How did they achieve this? We look to the fact that ethnicity has been formally outlawed in Rwanda, in the effort to promote a culture of healing and unity and one can stand trial for discussion of the different ethnic groups as some of the ways they are gradually putting themselves at the forefront of African development.

Rwanda’s Minister for Information and Communications Technology and Innovation just recently announced that a smartphone manufacturing plant is set to be opened in Rwanda by Mara Corporation. According to her, “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 plan to locally produce smartphones will boost access.” Why won’t it? It’s important to note that this development will create jobs for 20,000 Rwandans. Anything to decrease the rate of unemployment and bring about economic boost. Also, in order to bridge the digital divide among citizens, plans are underway to have trained digital ambassadors deployed in all sectors to train the population in digital literacy. Rwanda is potently riding on the waves of global digitization.

The Mara corporation will be handling the productions and this is what their chairman had to say, “China has Huawei, Xiaomi; the U.S has iPhone and finally Africa has 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.” It is indeed a case of ‘Africa to the world’.

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. There is also an arrangement to make purchasing the locally manufactured smart phones easy for citizens. The plan is to have people pay in installments over a period of 24 months and also liaise with telecommunication companies to seek ways of reducing prices on internet use, which will feasibly boost ICT penetration and digital services in the country.

Akinwunmi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, says the value of Africa’s mobile money industry is projected to top $14 billion by 2020. It is a market with great potential and many countries are angling to get the king’s share of the growing market. Some more than others, we dare say. Kenya put aside $10 million to finance their hardware and software industry, the goal being to have a locally made smartphone.

South Africa’s Onyx Connect also announced, in 2016, that it would be making a locally produced smartphone. Bloomberg reported that Onyx was the first company ever to manufacture smartphones in Africa. In Egypt, the Nile X smartphone, with most components manufactured in Egypt was also launched in 2017. Rwanda joins these and other ambitious African giants in leading the digital revolution.

There is a saying, “if you see an army of ants, then there must be something sweet there”or maybe we just made it up on the go. Nonetheless, if it boosts the economy, creates jobs, puts the country on the world map etc, shouldn’t we all be a part of this digital revolution? Why then are some African countries seemingly missing at the forefront of such innovations? Should a special form of the clarion’s call be performed? We are in doubt if even the Israelites’ trumpets will achieve this.

Rwanda has always been driven in the digital sector; having launched its first locally manufactured phone, Alira, in 2008. It was, of course, not a smartphone but the country’s intentions were made very clear: Rwanda was determined to have a presence in the market. With this recent development, Rwanda can be said to be putting its money where its mouth is. We duly hope that this won’t be a case of all hype and no content with substandard phones being mass produced for the populace. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and not be wet blankets.