In this modern world we are living, let’s take a look at the growth of smartphones in Africa and African companies attempting to produce these devices in the continent.
The mobile telephony industry has evolved over the years with a transition from feature phones to smartphones. Smartphones have gained huge popularity worldwide and have become a viable business venture.
The biggest producers of smartphones are Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Huawei and many others with little or none from the African continent which is considered to be the fastest growing mobile market with an estimated half a billion unique mobile subscribers by 2020, according to the 2017 Mobile Economy report by the GSM Association (GSMA) trade organisation.
These big phone producers outside the continent have also capitalized on the market to produce lower-priced smartphones. However, some few African companies have made attempts to mass produce cheaper smartphones for Africans.
Many of these African companies either import the smartphones built for them in China or import the parts from China and assemble them locally. Some have claimed to be producing “Made In Africa” phones, but the tag has become more of a cliche to represent assembly.
Here are four African companies that are making attempts to produce phones in Africa.
Onyx Connect – South Africa
This is a South African startup company with a plan to become the “first company to ever manufacture smartphones in Africa,” it said in 2016.
The company launched its factory last year and with an $11 million investment from undisclosed investors, it began mass producing a $30 smartphone.
Its low-cost smartphone will run on a “clean” version of Android after signing a licensing deal with Google in December 2016 to use the clean Android software.
Onyx imports its components from overseas and builds its smartphones from the circuit board up in South Africa, says Onyx sales director Andre Van der Merwe who told CNN that their manufacturing process distinguishes them from other phones assembled in the country.
VMK – Republic of Congo
In 2015, the Congolese startup VMK opened a plant in Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo to “produce” smartphones including its Elikia brands.
Its “Made In Africa” mantra was later debunked in a report that claimed the company was buying phones made in China and adding extra money for the Chinese company to slap their VMK brand on them.
However, they sold the phones in Congo and the Ivory Coast which were their major market.
Mint Electronics – South Africa
Mint Electronics is a subsidiary of the South African company Sekoko Holdings. The company acquired 75% share in CZ Electronics and launched the first ever line of South African-made smartphones and tablets.
This company was founded by Ugandan entrepreneur Ashish J. Thakkar and it’s set to launch a smartphone in 2018 which will be low cost, quality and tailor-made for Africa.
In the second quarter of 2018, the company is expected to release two smartphones: The Mara X and the Mara Z. The Mara X will use Google’s Android One program and will run the latest Android operating system, 8.0 Oreo. It has also been optimized for the Google Assistant.
The Mara Z will run the Android Oreo (Go edition), a configuration of Android specifically optimized for devices with 1GB of RAM or less.