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Rwandans celebrate launch of first ‘Made in Africa’ smartphones

RWANDA – Mara Group will now manufacture its flagship Mara Phones in Africa after the launch of a smartphone manufacturing factory in Rwanda.

Rwandans are celebrating the launch of the continent’s first ‘Made in Africa’ smartphones, that was unveiled by Mara Group which operates out of the East African country.

The Mara X and Mara Z will use Google’s Android operating system and cost 175,750 Rwandan francs (US$190) and 120,250 Rwandan francs (US$130) respectively.

The factory employs over 200 people to manufacture affordable phones from scratch for their host country and the rest of the continent.

They will compete with Samsung, whose cheapest smartphone costs 50,000 Rwandan francs (US$54), and non-branded phones at 35,000 Rwandan francs ($37). Mara Group CEO Ashish Thakkar said it was targetting customers willing to pay more for quality.

“We are actually the first who are doing manufacturing. We are making the motherboards, we are making the sub-boards during the entire process. This is the first smartphone manufacturer in Africa,” Thakkar said.

Companies assemble smartphones in Egypt, Ethiopia, Algeria and South Africa, but import the components, he said.

“We are actually the first who are doing manufacturing. We are making the motherboards, we are making the sub-boards during the entire process,” he said. “There are over 1,000 pieces per phone.”

Thakkar said the plant had cost US$24 million and could make 1,200 phones per day.

Mara Group hopes to profit from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, a pact aimed at forming a 55-nation trade bloc, to boost sales across Africa, Thakkar said.

Mara has taken great pains to point out that this is Africa’s first smartphone manufacturing factory, although it already assembles its smartphones in a few African countries.

Manufacturing will change the game for the company, but they will require volume to keep costs down. The company is optimistic that the factory can produce up to 1 million units per year soon.

The agreement is due to begin trading in July next year, aiming to unite 1.3 billion people and create a US$3.4 trillion economic bloc. But it is still in the very early stages and no timelines have been agreed for abolishing tariffs.

Mara Group, which describes itself as a “Pan-African multi-sector business services company”, is hoping to dominate the African smartphone market.

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