TechInAfrica — Mara phone recently announced its opening of manufacturing plants and highlighted African countries’ emerge into the high tech industry. With more than 450 tech hubs in the continent, Rwanda is angling to become one of Africa’s major tech hubs in East Africa.
In particular, Africa’s tech scene seems to be booming. According to Partech Africa, a venture capital firm, African tech startups raised $1.163 billion in equity funding in 2018 equals a 108 percent year-on-year growth.
In the past decade, Rwanda has developed quickly, averaging 7.5% GDP growth, which is among the highest in Africa. This is partly owing to tech ventures such as the Mara Phone from Mara Group, which recognized as the first ‘Made-in-Africa’ smartphone.
Mara is manufacturing two phones in the country: the Mara X, which boasts 16 GB at $130, and the Mara Z, with 32 GB and $190. The Mara Group’s CEO, Ashish Thakkar, mentioned in a statement that tech and smartphones, in particular, were key to supporting African societies.
“We realized a few years ago to create a positive social impact on our continent. … We need to have high quality and affordable smartphones. This will enable financial inclusion,” Thakkar said.
Concerning building the phones, Thakkar hopes to give Africans a third option beyond choosing between smartphones that are “high quality but not affordable, or affordable but not high quality.”
Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, is already transforming into a regional tech hub for East Africa, presenting events such as the Africa Tech Summit and the GSMA Mobile 360 Africa. Though other East African countries like Kenya feel proud as a larger concentration of tech companies, Rwanda predominates for its rapid growth in the tech scene and the ease for people to do business there.
The World Bank has listed Rwanda at 29th in their 2019 “Doing Business” report, in part because of the government’s promotion of ICT. For example, the country offers an entrepreneur visa, free spaces to work from, a steady rule of law, and a quick registration process for businesses. These features led people to call it the “test kitchen of Africa.”
However, transforming Rwanda into a high-tech hub depends on the appropriate infrastructure and resources. Five years ago, Rwanda had little 4G coverage, but today, that number has increased to over 95 percent. Owing to the infrastructure, start-ups have been able to introduce a variety of projects, such as implementing a cashless tap-and-go system for the Kigali bus system and offering wi-fi on public transportation.
The resources are also necessary for a successful tech business in Rwanda. Some are starting to accumulate and drawing attention. Andela, which identifies and trains software engineers, has opened an office in Kigali. Last year, they signed an agreement with the Rwandan government to recruit and offer six months of paid training in software development to up to 500 Rwandans.
Rwanda has also joined Alibaba to led Africa’s first electronic world trade platform, which provides Rwandan enterprises with cloud computing and mobile payment services to make local companies sell their products and services outside of Rwanda easier.
Comparative changes are taking place all over Africa. When Chinese investors are attempting to transform Africa into the next “factory of the world,” the reality of the situation in the coming decades, Africa and Rwanda will have fewer factories than they will high-tech hotspots.