Rwanda’s growing digital advancement has got a boost with Made in Rwanda smartphones, thanks to Mara Phones Rwanda, a subsidiary of Mara Corporation which has officially launched the long awaited ‘Mara Phones Manufacturing Plant’ in the Special Economic Zone, Kigali.
Mara Phones Manufacturing Plant, completed at a cost of over USD 50 million, was officially inaugurated on Monday 7th October 2019 by President Paul Kagame.
The momentous occasion was also graced by Mara Corporation top management, senior officials from the Government of Rwanda, members of diplomatic corps, members of the private sector and Mara Phones partners from Rwanda, Africa and beyond.
Located at Plot No. 2166 Kigali Special Economic Zone, Ndera, Gasabo District, Kigali, Mara Phones Rwanda Factory, is the first Africa’s high tech smartphone factory at affordable price.
Mara Phones Factory started operations two days ahead of the official inauguration starting with two models namely; the Mara X and Mara Z.
The first two models are affordable, with a long lasting battery, immense storage space and a 2 year Android version update – through a strong partnership with Google and its Android One Program.
As a local manufacturer, customer service and support will be delivered to an exceptional standard.
The aim of Mara Phones is to contribute to Africa’s 4th Industrial Revolution agenda by being the pioneer in building modern smartphone manufacturing plants across Africa with state-of-the-art technology.
R&D will be an integral part of the factory, enabling products to evolve while keeping up with technological advances.
President Kagame lauds the investment
As he officially inaugurated Mara Phones Manufacturing Plant, President Paul Kagame underscored that it is another milestone on the journey to high-tech ‘Made-in-Rwanda’ industry and stressed that Mara Phone joins a growing list of high-quality products that are made locally.
“Producing smartphones is not a simple matter. Around one thousand individual components are involved as we have been taken through the whole process. The Mara Phones plant is therefore a complex manufacturing operation requiring significant technical skill and expertise. It is another milestone on our journey to high-tech, ‘Made-in-Rwanda’ industry,” he said.
He congratulated everyone involved in the pioneering project particularly, Mara Phone Chairman, Jagdish and CEO, Ashish for choosing to establish the plant in Rwanda.
Kagame said the smartphone factory is the latest addition to Rwanda’s ongoing partnership with Mara Group highlighting that it shows the company’s confidence in the business prospects of Rwanda and the wider region.
Among others, the Head of State hailed the critical role, Mara Phones is posed to play in digitalizing Government services.
Irembo and e-health services are among services to be integrated into Mara Phones.
“In Rwanda we have Irembo which is already the citizen’s primary gateway for many public services. Integration of Irembo into Mara Phones is an innovative feature,” he said.
According to figures, only 15% of Rwandans have access to smart phones.
With the introduction of Mara Phones which also has an option to offer smartphones to be paid in installments, the President expressed optimism for increased smartphones ownership among Rwandans.
“The percentage is still really low of Rwandans, who are already using smartphones, but we want to enable many more who would like to, and this is why dealing with cost and quality is very important. We are gradually dealing with those obstacles through what Mara Group has established here in Rwanda,” he said.
“The introduction of Mara Phones will put smartphone ownership within reach of more Rwandans. The product is backed by a warranty and the price can be paid in installments over two years. They have tried to make it as simple and possible for Rwandans as they could,”
Mara shares our vision
Mara is committed to partnering with Rwanda’s educational and training institutions to ensure that workers acquire the necessary skills to succeed.
The President emphasized that the investment by Mara Phones Group is in perfect harmony with Rwanda’s focus on science and technology, as the key drivers of economic transformation and assured support towards a fruitful mutual cooperation.
“Mara Group has shown that it shares our vision for Rwanda’s development and is prepared to play a significant part in it. We value that readiness and will work to ensure that Mara Group’s investment is commercially successful, which is also to our benefit,” he said.
High quality and affordable
Ashish J. Thakkar, the CEO of Mara Phones stressed that the launch of maiden smartphone manufacturing factory in Rwanda is a historic moment, shifting the narrative for the continent in the true sense that Africans can also produce high quality global standard products on their continent.
He explained that the factory will not only increase access to high quality affordable smart phones in Africa but also will enable financial inclusion among other services.
“If our people have high quality and affordable smart phones, it will truly enable financial inclusion, digital education, digital health care, agriculture efficiency and so much more.
“We had big challenges, one: we had high qualities that are not affordable and the ones affordable are unfortunately not very good quality. The second issue has been that in Africa we don’t manufacture anything. We assemble in a few countries only,” he said.
“We were true consumers but not producers. So that is when we came up with the plan of Mara Phones for our people to afford high quality. This is the first time, a high tech manufacturing plant in Africa, by Africans, for Africa and the rest of the World in Rwanda. Today is a big dream coming true not only for Mara but also for Rwanda and Africa,” added Ashish.
He said that the company realized few years ago that creating a true positive impact on the continent and emerging market in general requires having high quality and affordable smart phones.
Committed to global standards
“I am a firm believer that Africa’s time is now and Mara Phones seeks to illuminate this. Mara Phones is a true testament to our commitment of ensuring that as Africans we produce and consume our own products without compromising on global standards. That is what we pride ourselves in and we will continue to do so,” highlighted Ashish.
“We are dedicated to contributing to the Rwandan and African economies through job creation, skills development, producing high quality smartphones and providing value additive solutions which will enable a thriving digitally included Africa,” he assured.
Rwanda open for business
Ashish thanked President Kagame for pushing the private sector to think big and dream the broad vision to digitalizing Rwanda and Africa with initiatives such as ‘Smart Africa’ which encouraged them to set up the facility aligning with the 4th industrial revolution.
He also appreciated Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) for extreme support to make the milestone possible reflecting on it as a true testament for Rwanda being open for businesses.
Mara Phones also worked with other partners including Google, Bank of Kigali, among partners.
According to Eddie Sebera, the Country Director of Mara Phones Rwanda, the factory started operations with one shift likely to make three personnel shifts based on growing demand.
The production goes from manufacturing, assembling and packaging. The prototypes are also made from Mara Lab available locally.
Sebera said the factory currently has 200 staff but expected to increase to 650 staff at full capacity.
The factory has the capacity to produce more than one million smart phones per month and a thousand phones per day in one shift.
“We are using one shift at the moment because we are creating awareness. Once we start getting response and increased demand from the market we will be in the position to increase the volume,” Sebera explained.
Sebera explained Mara Phones Factory in Rwanda is internationally licensed, certified by Google and Mastercards.
This built confidence for regional and international clients who have started demonstrating appetite.
“We have orders from the global market for smartphones which we will be producing from here including Europe and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We have already received orders from different countries including DRC, Angola, Kenya, Sierra Leone, and other partners from different countries who came to witness so they can start sending the orders. This gives us confidence that we will be able to expand,” he noted.
“I am excited to be part of a dream come true Mara Phones manufacturing company. I am proud of leading a team, producing modern smart phones made by Rwandans. This is a clear testimony of Africa Renaissance. With our high-level R&D, we bring problem solving solutions in our continent and will be increasing smartphone penetration in Africa with tailored solutions. We have the skills, the strength, the patience, and a passion to reach the Global Market,” noted Sebera.
Mara Phones features
The Mara Z is being launched as part of Google’s Android One program and it’s preinstalled with the latest Android Operating System: 9.0 Pie. The Mara Phone offers unlimited, free high-quality photo storage, automatically keeps your information secure and ensures that your phone is clean, fast and performing at its best.
The Mara Z phone has the Qualcomm Snapdragon Octa-core processor with 5.7” HD+ IPS Incell LCD Display supporting 16m colours, support up to 128GB, 3GB Ram and 32GB storage, Dolby Sound, 13 MP Back and Front Camera with front Flash, Gorilla Corning Glass, Fingerprint Sensor, Facial Recognition and Turbo Charger.
The Mara X is with Google’s Android Go operating system featuring “light” versions of popular apps – such as YouTube Go, Gmail Go, Map Go and others – which cater to the African market where consumers are data-saving savvy and internet costs are a major barrier to many users getting online.
The Mara X phone has the Mediatek Quad- Core processor with 5.5” HD+ IPS LCD Display, 1GB Ram and 16GB storage support up to 128GB, Dolby Sound, 13 MP Back Camera and 5MP front Camera, Gorilla Corning Glass, Fingerprint Sensor and Turbo Charger.
Mara Z costs Rwf 175, 750 while Mara X costs Rwf 120,250.
Employment and production capacity
The Mara Phones high tech smartphone-manufacturing factory is the first of its kind in Rwanda and the African continent, integrating high tech manufacturing processes.
The Mara Phones factory has the capacity to manufacture a few million smartphones and the production of these smartphones will be driven by demand. The factory’s scope and facility can expand as required to meet the demand.
Mara Phones Rwanda employs approximately 200 people, 90% of which are local employees and is very proud to employ 60% women within the facility.
The company is an equal opportunities employer committed to providing its staff with a great working environment and opportunity to learn and develop.
New employees are given one week theoretical electronic training and three months hands on training.
R&D will be an integral component at the factory, which will also enable the products to evolve with technological advancements.
High tech ‘Mara Phones Lab’
“Mara Phones Lab” is the technology arm of Mara Phones, which creates technology based value added solutions for the end consumer.
By harnessing the power of digital and technology Mara Phones Lab aims to innovate and create digital solutions for society offered through smartphones.
With it, Mara Phones helps businesses and Government to accelerate innovation and digital transformation through Mara Phone devices.
It also aims to build technology-based innovations to solve large-scale societal challenges and boost digital inclusion.
Mara Experience Stores
Ahead of the official launch, Mara Phone has been in Rwanda’s market showing the prototypes which were already at Mara experience shop at Kigali Business Centre (KBC) for customers to get a feel and touch of Mara Phones technology.
The Mara Experience Store was opened to give all potential customers an opportunity to experience the look and feel with the Mara Phones devices.
Consumers will have the opportunity to interact with the Mara Phone experts, technical specialists to understand the different models and provide technical support. High quality (original) accessories such as turbochargers, Dolby headphones, screen protectors will all be available to purchase at the experience stores.
Virtue experience Kigali centers
Mara Phones has already secured three shops. One is already functional at KBC; the second shop is in town at UTC building while another one will open at Kigali City Market.
In the next two months, Mara Phones plans to have eight Mara experience shops which will give it enough coverage for customers to find enough assistance.
“These are not mere sales shops; it is actually fully fledged shops, starting from Mara virtual experience, where our customers will actually understand how our products are behaving,” stressed Eddie Sebera, the Country Director of Mara Phones Rwanda.
After sales services
“We also have sales team and after service support. We repair the phones; have a team of technicians trained for the past three months to understand how to repair any phones that have problems,” noted Sebera.
The Mara Phone is a commercial product Made in Africa with the attributes to having exponential positive impact. Mara Corporation truly believes that business can be a huge catalyst for social impact on communities. Through the sale of the Mara Phone a percentage will be retained to support various charities and non-profits.
Some of the areas that are enhanced include; digital health enabling access to healthcare across regions, particularly in rural areas; digital education facilitated by enabling people across demographics to access a range of courses available online.
With Mara Phones, financial inclusion is enhanced; citizen services are more accessible, enabling advancements in agricultural efficiencies.
There are a wide range of digital business tools and services that empower the growth of enterprises and facilitate start up and growth of digitally enabled businesses such as e-commerce.
Manufacturing high quality smartphones on the African continent also channels a very positive message and contributes to Africa driving its own narrative.
Mara Phones Lab
“Mara Phones Lab” is the technology arm of Mara Phones, which creates technology based value added solutions for the end consumer.
By harnessing the power of digital technology, Mara Phones Lab aims to innovate and create digital solutions for society offered through smartphones.
Mara Phones helps business and government to accelerate innovation and digital transformation through Mara Phone devices. It also aims to build technology-based innovations to solve large-scale societal challenges and boost digital inclusion.
Giving smartphones ownership through competitions
Shortly before the inauguration of the factory, Mara Phone Rwanda held competition dubbed ‘World Lion Day’ contest.
The competition that ran between 10th and 31st August 2019, was in line with initiatives to promote the brand launched in Rwanda.
It was won by Christian Twahirwa, a graphic designer who walked away with Mara Z Smart Phone.
During the competition, participants had to create a video describing features of the Mara Phone’s samples spanning between 10 to 30 seconds with criteria to share the video with Mara Phones using #worldlionday #maraphones #wishtowin, Follow Mara Phones on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter page and Subscribe to its YouTube channel to stand a chance of winning Mara Z smartphone.
Twahirwa was announced winner on 5th September 2019 and received the prize on 10th September 2019 at Mara Experience Store located at the ground floor of Kigali Business Center (KBC) building.
Why investing in Rwanda
Digital advancement is among factors that continuously encourage people to acquire new habits, find new ways to work together, and become better and well-informed human beings.
The changes translate into a wide range of opportunities and enhanced services delivery across different areas.
Mara Phones has invested in producing Africa’s first smartphones in Rwanda due to the country’s impressive economic growth, stability, strong leadership and its Government’s stated interest in developing the technology industry in the country.
Mara believes that Africa is ready and able to produce its own smartphones, and there’s no better time and place than right now in Kigali.
The company is also proud of being a brand that is ‘Made in Rwanda’ thus changing the perspective on Africa with own Innovation.
Mara Phones smartphones will have a Made- in-Africa logo, while those for the local market will bear two logos; Made-in-Rwanda and Made-in-Africa.