On Monday, Mara Phone, a smartphone by the pan-African conglomerate Mara Group, opened its first factory in Rwanda. The company launched two smartphones and the described them as the first brand of African-made smartphones. However, this is very far from the truth. Africa, particularly Nigeria has been making pocket-friendly smartphones for years.
Mara’s X and Z smartphones which are on sale for $190 (175,750 Rwandan francs) and $130 (20,250 Rwandan francs), is looking to compete with Asian manufacturers like Tecno and Samsung who currently dominate Africa’s markets. The phones will use Google’s Android operating system and is targeting customers who are willing to pay more for quality.
According to Mara Group CEO, Ashish Thakkar, “This is the first smartphone manufacturer in Africa. We are actually the first who are doing manufacturing. We are making the motherboards, we are making the sub-boards during the entire process,” he said. “There are over 1,000 pieces per phone.”
Other Made in Africa smartphones
A study by on Taylor and Francis online discovered that consumers in developing countries prefer foreign brands and will readily go for products. This is true with smartphones as seen in the dominance of foreign smartphones like Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi and Tecno, however, many Nigerian manufactured phones which are way cheaper than Mara X and Mara Z have flooded the Nigerian market and have provided consumers with a plethora of options, features and quality at a fair market price.
Pliris is not a dominant player in the Nigeria smartphone market, however, they have been manufacturing phones since 2014. Pliris Mobile Limited is a Nigerian tech company initiated by Oluwafemi Alade. And the company manufactures smartphones as well as mobile internet devices tailored to meet unique needs and requirements.
In 2015, the company released its first smartphone PlirisBlazex-64 which runs on Andriod Lolipop 5.1 and optimized with PlirisMobile Tweaks. The phone has a 2GB RAM, A 6GB install space, up to 64 GB memory card slot and 16GB inbuilt storage.
Another silent player in the Nigerian market is SOLO Phone Nigeria Ltd, an experience-driven digital content and smartphone company based in Nigeria’s Lagos state. The company was formed in 2012 by a group of highly experienced telecommunication professionals, led by Tayo Ogundipe, a Nigerian-born, former senior global executive with HTC and Sony Ericsson. The company has a range of smart devices but its most popular is the SOLO ASPIRE 3 smartphone which runs on the Andriod 5.1 operating system.
Imose a Nigerian-based original equipment manufacturer that manufactures smartphones. Imosé mobile company, a subsidiary of the Imose group is synonymous with producing ‘sturdy’ Android phones that are named after typical Nigerian names.
Some of their smartphones include Kampe dual sim phone with 10,000mAh battery and the Imosé Ankara K2. Their device packaging comes in Ankara print designs, a local West African fabric. The phones were launched in 2015, and incorporates social networks like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, Twitter and Snapchat.
AfriFone Limited officially launched its first Nigerian made smartphone AfriOne to compete with other brands in the Nigerian market in 2017. They leveraged on the government’s Buy-Made-In Nigeria campaign to win the hearts of Nigerians. Headquartered in Lagos, AfriOne is as a pioneer in the manufacture and assembly of high-end communication technology in the African space.
South African Mint Smartphones by Mint Electronics, a subsidiary of the South African company Sekoko Holdings launched the first-ever line of South African-made smartphones and tablets and its Mint Fox smartphone has since grown to become the best-selling smartphone in South Africa. The smartphones are retailing at between $57 to $142 with both seven- and 10-inch screen tablet versions.
It is a welcome development that Mara phones are giving a boost to Rwanda’s ambitions of becoming a regional technology hub and increase Rwanda’s smartphone usage which currently stands at 15 percent. However, it is better to acknowledge the pioneer made in Africa smartphone brands.