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, Africa Business Magazine has reported.
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.
Speaking at the launch, CEO Ashish Thakkar, said: “We realised a few years ago that to create positive social impact on our continent and in emerging markets, we need to have high quality and affordable smartphones. That’s when we came up with Mara Phones.”
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 has created a financial model that allows users to pay for their phones over a period of two years.