Rwanda has opened what is being billed as Africa’s ‘first entirely homemade’ smartphone factory. The facility, run by Kigali-based Mara Phones, will produce up to 1,200 units per day, with two models costing around $130 and $200 respectively.

The ambition is to break into Africa’s growing mobile device market, which saw 88.2 million smartphones shipped in 2018. This is dominated by Korea’s Samsung and Chinese manufacturers like Huawei and Transsion.

Often lamented as a missed opportunity to boost local manufacturing, reinforcing Africa’s dependence on goods made elsewhere, this has spurred various efforts to break the monopoly of international companies.

This includes Republic of Congo’s VMK, South Africa’s io, and Johannesburg-based startup Onyx Connect. Last year Kenya launched a $10 million fund aimed at doing the same.

None have made meaningful inroads – for good reason.

As frustrating as foreign control of the market may be, Africa is no exception. Europe’s handset market, for example, is dominated by Samsung, Apple, and Huawei, accounting for around 75% of devices shipped. Homegrown manufacturers are negligible.

Unable to compete on price – Samsung sells smartphones in Rwanda starting at $54 – or scale, it’s hard to see how Africa can buck the trend.

If there’s a case to buy ‘made in Africa’ smartphones over those shipped from Korea or China, it’s largely sentimental.


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Keywords : Africa, News, Economy, Huawei, Mara phones, Rwanda, Samsung, Transsion