Mara Phone, a smartphone by the pan-African conglomerate Mara Group, has opened its first factory in Rwanda as the company hopes to pioneer a brand of African-made smartphones.
Located in Kigali’s special economic zone, the factory employees over 200 people to manufacture high-tech smartphones for the local market and further afield.
With two models on sale for $159 and $229, the Android phones are hoping to compete with Asian manufacturers like Tecno and Samsung who currently dominate Africa’s markets.
Smartphone penetration in Rwanda currently stands at around 15% with the most basic Tecno and Samsung models sold at $40 and $70 respectively.
The bulk of the market is characterised by feature phones which use USSD technology to access digital services; a general trend across the continent
At a considerably higher price, critics are skeptical the Mara Phone will make a dent in the local market.
Yet thanks to partnerships with local banks and telecommunications firms, the Mara Group have created a finance model which allows users to pay for their phones over a period of two years.
Opening the ceremony, Rwandan President Paul Kagame commended the drive towards affordable smartphones and underlined the need to boost the adoption of high-tech products in his country.
“The smartphone is no longer a luxury item, it is rapidly becoming a requirement of everyday life,” he said.
The Mara Group are set to launch their next Mara Phone factory in South Africa on the 17th of October.