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Kenya set aside millions of dollars, South Africa's Onyx released the first African-made smartphone, and Egypt's SICO produced the Nile X. Rwanda, with the Mara Phone, joins the club this year. Africa's digital revolution is here in earnest.
By April 2019, Rwanda could be at the forefront of a technological revolution in Africa. Paula Ingabire, Rwanda’s Minister for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Innovation, on the 7th of February, announced to the country's parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Technology, Culture and Youth that a smartphone manufacturing plant is set to be opened in Rwanda by Mara Corporation. The Minister said, "Smartphones are important ICT tools since there are some digital services that only require smartphones such as access to land services among others. There is also need to ensure affordability of smartphones whose high cost prevents citizens from benefiting from various digital services. . We hope that the plant to locally produce smartphones will boost access.”
Mara Corporation chief, Ashish Thakkar announced the plans last year at the Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg. He said, “China has Huawei, Xiaomi; the U.S has iPhone and finally Africa has Maraphone. This project will show the potential and ability that Africa can produce high quality and affordable smartphones in Africa, by Africans, for Africans and for the rest of the world. We have a few that are assembled in Africa but nothing is truly being manufactured in Africa. Thanks to the African Development Bank, that changes today.” He also pointed out that the manufacturing plants would be in South Africa and Rwanda.
Akinwunmi Adesina, President of the AfDB, says the value of Africa’s mobile money industry is projected to top $14 billion by 2020. It is a market with great potential and many countries are angling to get the king's share of the growing market. Kenya put aside $10 million to finance the hardware and software industry. The country's goal is to have a locally made smartphone. South Africa's Onyx Connect also announced, in 2016, that it would be making a locally produced smartphone. Bloomberg reported that Onyx was the first company ever to manufacture smartphones in Africa. In Egypt, the Nile X smartphone, with most components manufactured in Egypt was also launched in 2017. Rwanda joins these and other ambitious African giants in leading the digital revolution. Rwanda has always been driven in the digital sector; the country launched its first locally manufactured phone, Alira, in 2008. It was, of course, not a smartphone but the country's intentions were made very clear: Rwanda was determined to have a presence in the market.
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