RS 2: Rwanda

Rwanda Attempts to Bride Digital Divide by Setting up its First Smartphone Factory

Paula Ingabire, Rwanda’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology, announced that the east African nation was set to open its first smartphone factory in April of this year. Ingabire said that Rwanda had long been in talks with Mara Group, “a Pan-African multi-sector business services company,” to establish the plant. Mara Group announced in November that production of its newest smartphone, the Mara X, will be manufactured in plants only in Africa. “China has Huawei; the U.S. has iPhone and finally, Africa has Maraphone,” said Ashish Thakkar, founder of Mara Group. The plant in Rwanda will be Mara Group’s first in Africa, with plans to build a second plant in South Africa in the near future. The company hopes to begin selling their smartphones to buyers in Kenya, Morocco, DR Congo, South Africa, Mozambique, and Ghana for between $50-60. Ingabire acknowledged the importance of smartphones in allowing Rwandan citizens to access digital services. She recognized that Mara Group’s Rwandan plant will help keep the smartphone’s priced reasonably in order to ensure that they would become available to as many Rwandans as possible. She said, “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.” In an effort to further bridge the digital divide, other Information and Communications Technology officials named “Digital Ambassadors” have been trained and positioned throughout Rwanda to train the population on digital literacy and internet capability. The main outcome that Ingabire and the rest of the Rwandan government are hoping for with the construction of Mara Group’s plant is an increase in the number of Rwandans connected to the internet and digital services. Along with this benefit, the plant will also create a large number of employment opportunities and likely have a positive impact on the productivity of the nation’s economy.

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