Millionaire Businessman Ashish Thakkar Launches Rwandan Smartphone Factory Producing African-Made Phones

Written by Peter Pedroncelli
smartphone factory
Ashish Thakkar says that Mara Phones has built Africa’s first high-tech smartphone factory in Kigali, with the entire phone manufactured in Rwanda. This image, taken on Sep. 18, 2017 shows Ashish Thakkar, Founder of Mara Group and Chair of the UN Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council. Image: SDG Action Campaign/Flickr

Rwandan millionaire and Mara Group CEO Ashish Thakkar has launched a new manufacturing facility to produce smartphones in Kigali.

Mara Phones is being promoted as Africa’s “first high-tech smartphone factory”, according to CNN.

Mara Group is a Dubai-based, Africa-focused conglomerate with interests in technology, financial services, manufacturing, real estate, and agriculture.

Born in the U.K., Ashish Thakkar, 38, grew up in Rwanda.

A smartphone factory for African-made devices

Mara Phones, a subsidiary of the Mara Group, claims that its phones will be the first completely African-made devices. All the parts used in its devices are produced and assembled at the Rwandan facility.

A similar claim was made by South African startup Onyx Connect when it launched a low-cost smartphone in 2017. Onyx imported parts for its phones. 

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“The entire manufacturing process, from the motherboard all the way to the packaging of the phone is done in our newly-opened factory,” Eddy Sebera, Mara’s country manager for Rwanda told CNN.

Mara Phones is producing two smartphone models in Rwanda. The Mara X has 16 gigabytes of storage and is expected to retail for around $130, while the more advanced Mara Z model with 32 gigabytes of storage is expected to sell for around $190, NewTimes reports.

Smartphone penetration in Rwanda is around 15 percent with the most popular Tecno and Samsung models sold for around $40 and $70 respectively. 

Samsung leads the African smartphone market with a 36.9 percent market share, followed by Transsion, which makes the popular Tecno phone, with 20.2 percent, according to the International Data Corporation.

Analysts believe that Mara’s higher-priced devices will prevent Mara Phones from competing with established international smartphone brands in Rwanda, AfricanBusinessMagazine reports.

To make the sale more attractive, Mara Phones has partnered with local banks and telecommunications firms, creating a financing model that allows users to pay for their phones over two years, according to Forbes.

The factory in Kigali employs 200 people with women making up 60 percent of the workforce. It has the capacity to manufacture more than 2 million smartphones a year.

Mara Phones is expected to launch its second African factory in South Africa later in October.