SPECIAL REPORT: Only One Out Of 54 Countries in Africa ‘Fully’ Produces Smart Phone
Africa is a continent with estimated 1.216billion persons and 54 countries. According to internetworldstats, an international website that features up to date world internet users, population statistics and social media stats, the Internet penetration in Africa for the first quarter of 2020 (March) was put at 39.3%.
Nigeria which is Africa’s biggest economy and most populous nation has a smartphone user rate of between 25 to 40million persons.
According to geopoll a remote research services platform, text message and online survey, approximately 91% of South African adults own mobile phones with 51% of adults owning smartphones as at 2017, the remaining 40% of the 91% own standard cellphones.
Kenya’s penetration of mobile Internet users is at 83%.
Analyzing Africa’s First ‘Locally’ Made Smartphones, Mara X and Z
With African countries recording significant progress in mobile phone usage especially the demand for smartphones, only Rwanda manufactures smartphones fully.
While speaking, Paul Kagame of Rwanda announced Africa’s first high Tech smartphone factory. The country partnered with MaraPhones to achieve this feat. The organization manufactures the phones from the motherboard to the packaging stage.
The phones are Mara X model: 16GB storage and Mara Z with 32 Gigabyte storage. Both phones operate on Google’s android operating systems.
Maraphones has advanced feature such as facial recognition, finger print sensor, Gorilla glass. As garnered, the phone’s battery can charge up to 50% within 30 minutes.
The Mara X has a 5.5HD+; a 720by 1440 screen resolution, Dual HD cameras and lots of other features.
The Mara Z has a Big 5.7” HD+Display, 720 by 1440 screen resolution, 13 MP selfie and Rear Camera with Dual Recording among other features.
Mara Phones ‘produces’ 1,200 units of phones per day, with two models costing around $130 and $200 respectively.
DOCUMENTED EFFORTS TOWARDS PHONE PRODUCTION IN AFRICA
In 2018, it was reported that 88.2million phones were shipped into Africa. This was dominated by Korea’s Samsung and Chinese manufacturers like Hauwei and Transion.
In 2016, 95 million smartphones were shipped in Africa with a year on year increase of just over 3%.
There had been attempts to produce mobile phones in Africa before Mara. In 2015, it was reported by Reuters that Republic of Congo’s homegrown tech start-up VMK launched production of units of its mobile phones in Congo and aims to assemble 4million phones annually, the company’s Chief Executive Verone Mankou stated in a press release.
The company was however unable to hit the ground running after revealing that it would start production. Quartz debunked here that VMK’s made in Congo claim in a report, titled: The first Smartphone made in Africa, is a farce. It stated that VMK is basically buying phones made in China, branding them as its own and selling them for a markup.
In 2017, it was reported that Onyx Connect, a South African Startup, was poised to begin mass production of $30 smartphones, this was after the organization received a 150million rand ($11 million) investment from undisclosed investors in 2016.
In 2019, afrione commissioned its assembly plants and also launched its Afrione Phones in Nigeria, according to the organization, this marked the availability of the first in-country produced smartphones for sale in the Nigerian marketplace but the challenge has been that the assembly plant located along the Oshodi Expressway of Lagos state assembles smartphones and other devices from imported components.
In 2014, RLG, a Ghanian company in partnership with Osun State Government during Rauf Aregbesola’s administration, had set-up an assembly plant in Ilesha with the Capacity to produce 5,000 mobile Phones and 2,500 Laptops per day. According to The Guardian, the RLG’s office in MaryLand Lagos had no sign of activities, same as Afrione Office located along Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, in Lagos.
SICO Technology of Egypt revealed in 2017 that its smartphone, adjudged the first Egyptian-made smartphone, had only 45% of its components sourced locally.
The challenge of manufacturing smart-phones in Africa
The cost of production in Africa has always been a challenge for mobile phone manufacturers. For instance, Mid-range Mara X is US$159.00 while Mara Z is US$229.00, this is more expensive than other international brand products. Transsion Holdings, the Chinese mobile manufacturing group behind Africa’s popular Tecno, Infinix and Itel controls the continent market due to affordability.
The issue of brand acceptability also remains very rife. The question remains if Africans will buy made in Africa phones?
Samsung sells smartphones in Rwanda starting at $54, this maybe a hard rate for African manufacturers.
The issue of support is also very huge in achieving Smartphone production in Africa.
Government support has been another issue with ownership of Smartphone companies in Africa.
According to a report by TechPoint Africa, Africa’s smartphone market level of internet penetration may decline in 2020 due to Covid-19 and government policies.
In Nigeria for instance, the Finance Act was passed into law, this might lead to an increase in price of smartphones.
For instance, a report by PageOne, analyses how lack of good infrastructure, government policies and electricity is chief of reasons while SmartPhone producing organizations find it hard in African countries.
WHY AFRICA NEEDS TO MANUFACTURE ITS OWN SMARTPHONES
According to statcounter, a global statistics organization, mobile vendor market share in Africa is put at;
With the current Covid19 pandemic, there are expectations that the market sale for smartphones will fall due to the fact that producing companies are affected in China, India and other countries.
Carefulness of people in purchasing imported smartphones is also expected to be on the increase.
There is an expected increase in the Selling price for smartphones in and around the continent as the Covid19 hits further.
For a continent that is fast depending on mobile connectivity for economic growth, it is very important that the continent prioritizes its own production of smartphones.
With the huge amount spent by Africans in importing Smartphones, a chunk of this can be retained into the African economy
According to qz the number of smartphone connections across the continent doubled over the last two years, reaching 226 million. With more than half a billion persons subscribing to mobile services and an expected growth to 725 million by 2020, this is the time for made in African smartphones.
Mobile services directly contributed to $17 billion in government taxes in 2015 accounting for 6.7% of the continent’s GDP and $150billion in economic value.
With Digital economies agitation around Africa, technology inclined development; Africa needs to control over 75% of its population use of smartphones by growing independent local organizations.