Mara Phones, a subsidiary company of the Mara Group owned by businessman Ashish J. Thakkar, has built a high tech smartphone manufacturing facility in Kigali’s Special Economic Zone, Rwanda.
The factory, which was launched by Rwandan President Paul Kagame at a ceremony on Monday, has the capacity to manufacture more than 2 million smartphones in a year. Speaking at the launch ceremony, Thakkar said the company aims to manufacture high quality smartphones at an affordable price while improving smartphone growth in Africa.
“We realized 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,” Ashish Thakkar said during the launch.
Smartphone penetration in Rwanda currently stands at around 15% with the most basic Tecno and Samsung models sold at $40 and $70 respectively. Mara Phones’ new factory will start manufacturing two phone models, the Mara X and Mara Z. Thakkar says both phones will retail for less than $200 and among other things will have a longer-lasting battery than other smartphones, greater storage space and a 2-year Android version update courtesy of a partnership with Google. Mara Phones has also partnered with local banks and telecommunications firms to create a finance model which will allows users to pay for their phones over a two-year period.
Mara Group says the new facility is Africa’s first high tech smartphone factory.
“What we have around Africa are basically mobile phone assembling plants. What we have built is Africa’s first smartphone manufacturing plant,” Thakkar said during the launch.
The factory already employs 200 people with women representing 60% of the workforce. Launching the factory, Rwandan President Paul Kagame commended Mara Group’s entry into the affordable smartphone market and underlined the need to boost the adoption of high-tech products in the East African country.
“The smartphone is no longer a luxury item, it is rapidly becoming a requirement of everyday life,” President Kagame said.
“That trend is bound to increase in the years to come as more and more services migrate to digital platforms. We want to enable many more Rwandans to use smartphones. The cost and quality is very important and the introduction of Mara Phones will put smartphone ownership within reach of more Rwandans.”
Mara Phones will be launching its second factory in South Africa later this month.
Ashish Thakkar, 38, is the founder of Mara Group, a Dubai-based, African-focused conglomerate with interests in the technology, financial services, manufacturing, real estate & agriculture industries.