Rwanda’s Mara Group launched two Android-based smartphones is called the first “Made in Africa” phones.
Starting off with the flagship Mara X and basic Mara Z, the two phones feature fingerprint scanners, nano-SIM, and a standard 720×1440 pixel resolution screen on both. The Mara X relies on the Mediatek MT6739 processor while the Mara Z runs on the Qualcomm MSM8940 Snapdragon 435 chip.
They will retail at Ksh 19,000 (175,750 Rwandan francs) for the Mara X and Ksh 13,000 (120,250 Rwandan francs) for the Mara Z.
The launch of the two smartphones might not dent the strong position of the Chinese and Koren phone’s hold on the African market but it will inspire new confidence in the African techies with developers and carriers looking to partner with an African manufacturer in this regard.
There are smartphone assembly plants in Egypt, Ethiopia, Algeria and South Africa
Mara Group is oned by the UK born Ashish Thakkar who is also the Group CEO. He is 38 years old, moved to East Africa at 15 years from Leicester in the United Kingdom.
While the price point might be a good market positioning for the newly launched phone, there are cheaper Samsung, Infinix, Oppo and Huawei smartphones which are delivering much better for Ksh 5,400 ($54) or even Ksh 3,700 ($37).
Mara Group CEO Ashish Thakkar defends the pricing with, “we are targeting customers willing to pay more for quality.”
We have ordered our units and we hope that we will get to test the smartphones soon.
Regarding the plant, Thakkar said that it had cost Ksh 2.4 billion ($24 million) and has the capability to make up to 1,200 phones per day.
Mara Group hopes to exploit the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) which is aimed at rallying the 1.3 billion people in the 55 African nations into a single trading bloc. The agreement is set to be implemented from July 2020.
The CFTA block is estimated to be worth at least Ksh 340 trillion ( $3.4 trillion). With the smartphone usage at just 15 per cent in Rwanda, Kagame hopes that the forays of the likes of Mara Group will increase uptake.