Smartphone Made in Africa

A South African start-up wants to soon begin producing its own Android powered devices. It is not the first attempt of its kind.

Onyx connect, a young company from South Africa, who could collect so far $ 10.5 million of venture capital, came in early December in the headlines: the start-up had announced, being the first company in the world that manufactures smart phones in Africa. The factory, which is to go into the spring 2017 at the start, will produce Android phones under license from Google, according to media reports.

That sounds like good news for the progress on the African continent, which is considered one of the last large growth markets in the technology industry – so invested around the social network Facebook millions to enlarge its user population there. The people in Africa now about equally often use their mobile phones as the population of the United States, but they can buy only equipment from abroad – mostly from China.

But even many of these smartphones are too expensive for most residents of the black continent. Onyx connect thinks that a real domestic mobile phone market could stimulate job growth not only, but would lead finally also to lower-cost devices. So the company in South Africa to offer a Smartphone with camera and one gigabyte of memory for around $ 30.

However, a look in the archives shows that Onyx connect is not really the first company trying to produce low-cost phones in Africa – by Africans for Africans. Last year, the start-up VMK announced it opened a factory in Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo, where among other things the Smartphone range Elikia should be created.

But what really means VMK with “Made in Africa” is controversial. It was shortly before the opening of the factory in a U.S. media report, the company buy especially phones in China, Miss it then VMK brand and sell them at a premium in the Congo and Côte d’Ivoire. Sources of the website “Quartz” according to VMK in Africa holds no patents and lack of local expertise, to produce such hardware at all.

Onyx connect seems fairly open to proceed with its strategy. The company indicates she import the electronic innards of their phones from Chinese factories. However, the design work on the devices, their hull production as well as research and development for future models should be carried out completely on African soil. Onyx connect speaks according to own statements also with multinational technology companies such as Google, to enter in other segments in the shop with laptops, tablets, and other digital devices.

But no matter how to also assess the work of Onyx connect and VMK and how ‘African’ their hardware really is – the black continent has much Simoncelli before him. So more in local education, entrepreneurship and research and development investment in the IT sector. Maybe the new mobile startups are Yes a primer. (Michael Reilly) /(bsc)