Rwanda’s Mara Group has launched two smartphones, which it describes as the first Made in Africa models.
The Mara X will cost $190. The Mara Z will retail for $130. Both will use Google’s Android operating system.
These phones are not necessarily aiming to compete solely on price. Samsung already offers a $54 phone, and non-branded phones are even cheaper. The Mara Group has suggested that it is targeting customers willing to pay more for quality – and of course for smartphones manufactured in Africa, which, the company points out, is not the norm.
Smartphone assembly happens in a number of African countries but uses imported components, a spokesperson pointed out, telling Reuters that the $24 million Mara Group plant in Rwanda is capable of making 1,200 phones per day.
The timing is certainly interesting. If the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) becomes a reality, it could offer African businesses access to what will be one of the largest free-trade areas in the world, involving at least 44 of the 55 member states of the African Union – a boost for Mara’s export ambitions.
Closer to home, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, who visited the company for the launch, expressed the hope that the phones would increase Rwanda’s smartphone usage, which is estimated to be about 15 percent at the moment.
The Mara Group launch is part of a trend towards delivering affordable high-end phones to African end users. Among recent arrivals in the market, Tecno, a leading mobile phone brand in Africa, this year announced the launch of a 3G smart feature phone, the T901, earlier this year – the first Tecno device running on the KaiOS, mobile operating system.