Johannesburg-based startup, Onyx Connect, is set to become the first firm in Africa to manufacture smartphones when its starts rolling out its phones in the first quarter of 2017 to capitalize on the rich African market where high prices have been a major hurdle to handset ownership.
The firm, with a $10.5 million in funding, will produce the handsets under a licensing deal with American tech giant, Google.
“We are talking to companies to manufacture handsets, laptops and possibly Android TV boxes. These talks include Google itself and Johannesburg-based Vodacom Group Ltd., the South African unit of Vodafone Group Plc,” Andre Van der Merwe, the firm’s sales director told Bloomberg.
The South Africa startup will also set up a distribution centre for its handsets which will create 600 jobs in Ethiopia. Construction of the plant will be completed in the next one and half months, Bloomberg reported.
Onyx Connect will be importing some of the raw materials from China, but the designing of the phones, research for developing future models and the cases will al be done locally, Mi Technology Review reported.
The smartphones will retail at about $30, making them readily affordable to most African where high prices have largely inhibited global giants like Samsung from fully maximizing on the growing use of the handsets.
A Samsung Galaxy S7 or iPhone currently retails at $600.
The move by Onyx Connect comes four years after another startup, VMK, founded by Verone Mankou in the Republic of Congo, claimed to locally manufacture Africa’s first-ever smartphone, Elikia.
Investigations however, revealed that the startup imported the phones from China and only branded them with its logo, and then sold them in the country and neighboring Ivory Coast, Quartz Africa reported.
Several local firms in South Africa such as Zest Mobile, Afrihost and Mint Mobile are already assembling smartphone from imported kits.
The deal with Onyx Connect will also help Google in its bid to expand across the African market.
Currently, Opera of Norway is the leading player on the continent with at least 100 million users in Africa, according to its State of Mobile Web Report in Africa 2016, released last month.