As part of the plans for this, the Kenyan Government has set aside $10 million to support startups in the mobile telephone software and hardware industry.
Speaking on the latest development, Information and communications technology minister Joe Mucheru said “the move was aimed at bolster manufacturing, making phones that are “suitable for our markets,” besides driving the prices of phones down.”
With this new development, Kenya joins a growing list of African countries developing locally made phones. Late last year Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi launched Nile X, a smartphone developed by Egyptian technology company SICO for local consumers. Also, the Republic of Congo and South Africa have similar projects in the pipeline.
As reported by Quartz Africa, Kenya’s decision to assemble a local phone is pragmatic, given the increasing uptake in mobile phones across the country. In many ways, the East African nation’s economy is “mobile first”: almost 98% of the population having access to a mobile phone, according to the Communications Authority of Kenya. This increasing ownership has also driven subscriptions to mobile money with the dominant player being Safaricom’s M-Pesa service, itself a global leader in the sector.
Also serving as a big boost to Kenya’s plans to develop locally made phones is the growth in Hardware entrepreneurship. Companies like Gearbox and start-ups like BRCK building communications hardware are on ground to provide local solutions.
However, there are concerns regarding traction and competition the locally made phones could face. Chinese handset maker Transsion Holdings; a Chinese handset maker prove a serious challenge for any Kenyan brand, the Shenzhen-based company produces phones in and for the continent, some as cheap as $10.
The Chinese company is also not relenting in its efforts as it has plans to provide more features at affordable prices in the coming years. This expectedly won’t deter the government in its plan, however, it is hoped the government is armed with more than the sheer dreams of producing locally made phones.