Kenya has achieved a major tech milestone with the rollout of its first smartphones assembled locally within the country. Techweez can confirm the made-in-Kenya phones are now in pilot production ahead of an October market launch.
Earlier this year, President Ruto announced a public-private partnership to manufacture 1 million affordable smartphones in Kenya. In a recent speech, he stated the assembly plant was operational and had produced 20,000 units so far.
The facility is located at the Konza Technopolis in Machakos County, assembled by a consortium of Safaricom, Jamii Telecommunications and Chinese firm Shenzhen TeleOne Technology.
Shenzhen TeleOne already partners with Safaricom to provide its popular Neon-branded low-cost smartphones to Kenyans. This experience in budget devices is key for ensuring locally-built phones are affordable.
When first announced, the government indicated the phones would retail around KES 5000 ($40 at the time). However, with the Kenya Shilling declining against the dollar, the October launch price will likely be closer to KES 6000.
Still, the introduction of made-in-Kenya smartphones promises to enhance digital inclusion and access. President Ruto noted they will be a game-changer, following the goal of 1 million devices.
For Kenya’s hardware technology sector, local assembly represents a new milestone. It joins recent achievements like the export of Raspberry Pi Pico boards engineered in Kenya.
With pilot production underway, Kenya is set to join the ranks of smartphone makers. Persistent currency slides may raise costs, but the accomplishment remains bringing assembly capabilities and high-tech jobs to the country.
As buyers weigh pricing and specs after the October rollout, the wider impacts for skills development and the startup ecosystem around “made in Kenya” smartphones will just be beginning.