The Kenyan government has announced its plan to develop mobile phones manufactured in the country.
The government, according to Kenya’s minister of information, communication and technology, Joe Mucheru, is putting aside one billion shillings ($10 million) to help local startups working in the mobile telephone software and hardware industry.
The move, he said, was aimed at bolstering manufacturing and making phones that are “suitable for our markets”, with the added benefit of driving the prices of phones down. The minister expressed concern at the fact that the country imports 50 million mobile phones every two years.
As it stands, technology is one of the fastest growing sectors in the Kenyan economy: almost 98% of the population has access to a mobile phone and mobile services like M-Pesa, operated by Safaricom, achieving almost nationwide penetration.
“Despite this, developing phones locally and making them attractive to consumers will be a difficult task. Chinese handset maker Transsion Holdings will also prove a serious challenge for any Kenyan brand: using its research centers in Kenya and Nigeria and factories in Ethiopia, the Shenzhen-based company produces phones in and for the continent, some as cheap as $10.
And as the company gears up to provide more features in affordable prices in the coming years, it is expected to drive both smartphone and feature phone uptake—proving that Kenya’s dream project will be easier said than done.”