22 March 2013

Mozambique: Assembly of Computers in Mozambique At Standstill

Maputo — The project to assemble desktop and laptop computers in Mozambique seems to have collapsed, thanks to a dispute between the Mozambican government and its foreign partner in this venture, the South African company, Sahara Computers.

The “Dzowo” computer, launched by the Ministry of Science and Technology in 2009 in homage to the founder and first president of Frelimo, Eduardo Mondlane (who used the traditional name Dzowo), was to be assembled in Maputo, and sold at a price more in line with Mozambican pockets than the prices charged for imported computers.

At the inauguration of the project, it was said that 48 computers a day would be assembled (equivalent to 960 a month), rising to 80 computers a day in 2010.

Such numbers never became reality. According to a report in Friday’s issue of the independence weekly “Savana”, the project stalled because Sahara demanded protectionist measures for the Dzowo computers.

Sahara wanted a guaranteed monopoly of supply to state institutions. In other words, no part of the Mozambican state apparatus would be allowed to buy any computer other than a Dzowo.

Such a deal would violate Mozambican laws on procurement, and so the government rejected the proposal. Sahara eventually pulled out unilaterally from the deal, leaving the project for a computer “made in Mozambique” stranded.

The company that was to assembly the computers, Sahara ICT, was 75 per cent owned by Sahara and 25 per cent by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Ministry official Carlos Tamele told “Savana”, that despite the pullout by Sahara, the Mozambican government is not abandoning the project, and is looking for new partners.

“The Ministry has been working to identify new partners who would be interested in investing and reactivating the factory”, he said.

He said that South African, Brazilian, Portuguese and Swedish companies have expressed an interest, and negotiations are under way.

Tamele said it had been made clear to Sahara Computers right at the start that it could not expect to override Mozambican procurement rules.

“Several of the computers assembled were distributed to Ministries”, Tamele recalled, “but Sahara wanted to be selected automatically for supplying computers to state bodies, without passing through public tenders”.

The prices for Dzowo computers were certainly attractive, at 14,000 meticais (465 US dollars at current exchange rates) for a desktop, and 16,000 meticais for a laptop.

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