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Rwanda invests in first smartphone factory

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Minister for ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire

In October 2018, Rwanda-based technology company Mara Corporation said it was investing $100 million in South Africa to make affordable, high tech smartphones.

Mara founder Ashish Thakkar noted that the African continent currently had over 400 million smartphones in use, and this would expand to over one billion in the next few years.

Fast-forward to February 2019, tech company Mara together with Rwandan government officials have announced the rollout of a factory to produce smartphones in Rwanda in addition to enhancing access to digital services in the country.

The plan was unveiled by the ministry’s officials on Thursday while appearing before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Technology, Culture and Youth to explain issues related to ICT observed across the country.
Paula Ingabire, the Minister for ICT and Innovation, said negotiations with Mara Corporation, a Pan-African technology company, to establish the plant are ongoing and that by April this year it could have started activities in the country although she did not reveal enough details about it.

She said that smartphones were important ICT tools since there are some digital services that only require smartphones such as access to land services among others.

“To ensure smartphones become affordable, different strategies are needed to ensure each household has a smart device and digital literacy. We hope that the plant to locally produce smartphones will boost access,” Ingabire said.

“Once the factory starts producing smartphones, people will be paying in instalments over a period of 24 months. We also have to work with telecommunication companies to seek ways of reducing prices on internet use, which will boost ICT penetration and digital services”.

Innocent Muhizi, the Chief Executive Officer, Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA), said that every year a certain amount is spent on scaling up internet access in public institutions so as to improve service delivery.

He said, so far, over 1,000 institutions, among them 266 cells, have been connected to the internet. The number is expected to increase to 2,000 institutions by June this year.

However, Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority recently reported that internet penetration in the country had reached 47.7 per cent by September 2018.

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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