Rwanda: Eight Things to Know About Mara Phones

President Kagame together with other officials (L-R); Ashish Thakkar, the CEO of the Mara Group, Clare Akamanzi, the chief executive of Rwanda Development Board and the Minister for ICT and Innovation Paula Ingabire inspect one of the production units of Mara Phones.

Mara Phones yesterday launched its manufacturing plant in the Special Economic Zone in Kigali becoming the continent's first manufacturer of Smartphones.

The development is also a milestone in the country's journey to becoming the hub for production of high tech products. Below are 8 things to know about the firm.

This is a manufacturing plant

The factory is a manufacturing plant, not an assembly station. The distinction is that Mara Phones produces its own chips and parts from over 1,000 tiny components to have a complete phone. Assembly plants, on the other hand, put together complete parts.

The manufacturing model reduces the cost of the final product and ensures that it's tailored to the needs of local users.

Cost of the investment

The facility was established at a cost of over $50 million, according to officials at the firm.

Bank of Kigali was among the financiers.

Over 650 direct jobs to be created

Currently, the facility employs 200 workers, with 90 per cent being Rwandan. However, the current staff size only supports one shift.

Eddie Sebera, the country manager of Mara Phones, told The New Times that once they achieve all envisaged three shifts a day, the firm will create up to 650 jobs.

The Minister for ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire, said that the firm was able to access a labour pool that could easily be re-skilled to prepare them to work at the facility.

This, she noted, is proof of the growing relevance of IPRCs and TVET centres in the country.

Over a million phones

At the moment, the facility's staff size only supports one shift and they are currently able to produce 1,000 phones a day.

However, at three shifts a day, they will produce over a million phones a year.

As of now, the firm will be producing two models; Mara X and Mara Z.

Phone prices

The two models are moderately priced with Mara X going for $130 (or Rwf120,250) while Mara Z costs $190 (or Rwf175,750).

The phones are available at the firm's retail store at the Kigali Business Centre. In coming days, they will establish two other retail and experience centres with a target of eight centres across the country.

Installment purchase model

To ease ownership and acquisition of the phones, Ingabire said that they have worked with the firm to design packages such as payment in installments for a period of up to two years.

This, the minister said, will enable Rwandans to afford the phones with ease.

So far, two banks are on board about the model, with others expected to follow suit in coming days.

Integration of local services

To ensure that the phone is relevant among local users, Ingabire said that they worked together so that it comes with services such as Irembo, pre-installed.

This ensures that it's relevant among local users.

Plans to access regional market

The firm is seeking to sell its products beyond the local market. Ashish Thakkar, the CEO, said that their aim is to maintain the highest standards, and are targeting regional and continental market.

Already, the firm is in talks with partners in countries such as Angola, Kenya, and DR Congo to export their products there.

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