President Paul Kagame's vision to put Rwanda and Made in Rwanda products on the global market has led to the country producing Africa's first smartphones. The Mara phone is reportedly the first high specification, affordable smartphone manufactured in Africa.
At the launch of phones by Rwanda's Mara Group, President Kagame said, "Our world is changing fast. Keeping pace requires constant innovation. This is the path Rwanda has chosen for our development."
Made in Rwanda is not just a phrase, it is a statement of independence, ingenuity, innovation and progress. President Paul Kagame started the initiative of Made in Rwanda in 2015 by taking practical steps in first securing the textile industry in Rwanda.
In 2017, President Kagame banned the importation of used clothes despite threats from the US. The US argued that the ban would impose hardship on America's clothing industry. For President Kagame, it was either Rwanda took such a drastic action and built its textile industry, or it continued with second hand clothes importation.
The impact of President Kagame's decision would be felt in the fashion circle in Kigali. From Made in Rwanda clothes, the Rwandan government has launched Made in Rwanda phones. Mara phones are the first made in Africa smartphones.
The Mara X and Mara Z models use the Google's Android operating system and go for $190 and $130 respectively. They were designed in partnership with Google's Android One Program. The phones can be paid for in instalments over two years.
President Kagame expressed his pleasure at the partnership pf Mara with Rwanda's educational and training institutions which would ensure that the necessary skills are acquired by workers. Mara equally aims to export phones within the East African region.
The manufacturing plant seeks to make 1, 200 phones a day.
Unlike other countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, Algeria and South Africa which have companies that assemble smartphones but import the components, Mara phones makes the motherboards, and sub-boards. The company seeks to leverage on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement to boost sales on the continent.