Rwanda has become a common feature in the press and mostly for cutting edge technological feats plus more. Not too long ago its capital city, Kigali, was ranked the cleanest (or greenest) city in Africa. Recently the same country launched satellites into orbit. Rwanda is so on course to becoming Africa’s tech hub as is evidenced by the perpetual growth of their industry and their tech advancements. This, again, is a country in which drone technology is already being used for practical uses like delivering blood or other medical consumables. Today I am talking about yet another recent feat that Rwanda has achieved.
‘Made In Rwanda’ On Smartphones Now A Reality
Rwanda has opened a manufacturing factory for smartphones. The factory which was built by the Mara Group was officially on the 7th of October. Their initial smartphone models are Mara X and Mara Z which shall be running using the Android operating system. The Mara X shall have a US$190 price tag whilst the Mara Z shall be worth US$130. According to the Rwandan government, this smartphone manufacturing plant is just one of the steps to fulfilling a much bigger picture. The Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, actually echoed this when he highlighted that the Mara phones were adding to the growing list of products Made In Rwanda. Their long term thrust is to broaden the range of products and services that will be proudly Made In Rwanda. The plant can produce 1200 phones every day and it cost US$24 million to build. Currently, there are 200 employees at the plant, a number expected to reach 650 at maximum production.
Mara Group CEO’s Remarks
Looking at the prices mentioned earlier one can surely notice that they are somewhat expensive. There have already been public sentiments regarding the prices and the CEO, Ashish Thakkar responded to those concerns. He said that the pricing was determined knowing fully well there is a niche of people in a position to afford them. He also pointed out that this plant is the first-ever manufacturer of smartphones on the continent. They are making all the required parts needed for the whole process themselves from motherboards to sub-boards. This is quite remarkable especially considering that approximately 1000 individual components are needed in the process.
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)
The Mara Group is looking to leverage on the AfCFTA in their bid to realize continental sales. The agreement is aimed at the formation of a trade bloc comprising 55 countries. Mara is already engaged in discussions with Angola, Kenya and DRC over export partnerships.
African Telecoms Industry
The Mara phones are going to contribute towards smartphone usage in Rwanda. This will, in turn, go a long way in boosting financial inclusion especially with innovations like mobile banking and mobile money services. This will also feed into and from projections placing the growth of the telecoms market on the continent by roughly 7% in years to come. When it comes to telecoms Africa is leading the pack with remarkable projections such as 8 out of every 10 people in Sub-Saharan Africa expected to be having and using a mobile device by the end of next year. It is not surprising to understand why the likes of Techno and Huawei are so focused on the African market.
The General Manufacturing Boom In Africa
Other than having a surge in home-grown manufacturing businesses, Africa is being famed for being a manufacturing investment destination of choice for most foreign countries. Why are foreign countries choosing to invest in other continents – Africa, for example? This is because the costs of production are rising in their home countries – China is a good example. So they resort to investing in developing nations where the costs of production will be relatively lower. Though there is a lot of debate on issues like exploitation and externalization of foreign currency, amongst many others – I will not delve into that here.
The point is, this trend of foreign direct investment in manufacturing industries presents prospects for industrialization – something Africa needs to progress forward. In the long term, this helps develop African economies because productivity is central to economic growth. China is a great example of what the key to economic richness is. Here is the key – develop a booming manufacturing industry that is interlinked with worldwide value chains. Once any nation achieves that then you can be rest-assured their economy will grow exponentially. This is exactly what Rwanda is working towards and it is something Zimbabwe can also emulate.
There is a lot to learn from the case study of Rwanda. It is amazing to think that in 1994 the country was experiencing a brutal genocide that saw at least 800 000 people killed. That was roughly 25 years ago yet their transformation they have gone through in such a short time is remarkable.