Within ten days of opening its first Mara Phone factory in Rwanda’s capital Kigali last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Mara’s CEO will officially open a second smartphone manufacturing plant at Durban’s Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
The opening comes within a year of Thakkar committing to invest Us$100 million (R1.5 billion) into SA’s first fully-fledged smartphone factory during President Ramaphosa’s SA Investment Conference in Sandton last October.
According to MoneyWeb, Dube TradePort, next to the King Shaka International Airport north of Durban, had secured the Mara Phone manufacturing plant, to be based at the SEZ.
The Dubai-based Mara Group opened its first Mara Phone factory at Kigali SEZ on Monday last week, which was attended by Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Thakkar said the group is investing around $200 million in the setup of both factories in Kigali and Durban, which will manufacture “made-in-Africa” smartphones for the first time. There are other mobile phone facilities in Africa, but these operate as assembly plants.
“Most importantly our high-quality but affordable smartphones will be manufactured at our Mara Phone plants in Rwanda and South Africa…. We’ve already invested $50 million in the Kigali plant and more than $50 million in the Durban plant,” he says, adding that the plants are the same size.
The Mara Phone plant at Dube TradePort will ultimately “generate over 1 500 direct jobs and thousands of indirect jobs” when it gets to full capacity over time.
“We currently have two smartphone models – the Mara X and Mara Z. In the future we will have more models such as the Mara X1, Mara Z1. Our capacity (at our plants) is a few million smartphones a year,” he adds.
Thakkar believes Mara Phone will make an impact on the SA market and the rest of Africa. Pan-African investment conglomerate Mara Group was founded by Thakkar, a Ugandan-born self-made billionaire.
Mara Group’s investment into Dube TradePort is within the first phase of the SEZ, which has already attracted investments to the tune of around R4 billion.