Calling them the first “Made in Africa” smartphones, the Mara Group has opened two factories this month, with a $100 million investment near Durban, in what is described as South Africa’s first fully-fledged smartphone manufacturing plant.
Earlier in the month, Mara Phones Chief Executive Ashish Thakkar opened the first factory in Rwanda
“It is Africa, South Africa and Mara’s dream that has been fulfilled. We have finally launched smartphone factor that will create jobs for South Africans. It is high tech manufacturing in South Africa by South Africans,” Thakkar said in Durban.
“This our first investment in South Africa and it has been phenomenal. We are proud to contribute to South Africa’s fourth industrial revolution. The project has happened in record time due to support form the government. Let’s celebrate Africa and South Africa.”
The Mara Group’s investment in the country follows the South Africa Investment Conference in 2018, where SA President Cyril Ramaphosa announced R300 billion ($20 billion) in investments into the country.
“We have delivered on our commitment to open a smartphone factory in SA,” Thakkar said. “This represents the Mara Group’s first foray into the country and the first fully-fledged smartphone manufacturing plant that will produce high quality but affordable smartphones locally.”
The Durban plant, with has 200 employees, can manufacture 10,000 Mara Phones every day, he says. Both factories are making only two models, the $200 Mara X and $265 Mara Z.
Welcoming the firm, Ramaphosa said it advances the country’s plan to be “a hub of innovation and enterprise” which will open opportunities for young people.
“Technology is key to economic change and it is high time that Africa rides its own information highway”.
Ramaphosa said the country was “grateful” to Mara for employing over 200 youth, of which 67% are women and 94% were unemployed but skilled. “Today we have made history, there aren’t many type of firms like this, and possibly in the world, where you have 67% of the workers being women,” he said.
“The fastest-growing economies are in Africa, and its population is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050.”
Meanwhile, the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area will open up enormous opportunities for companies located in South Africa.
“We are witnessing a telecom mobile revolution on the African continent. In Africa, 3G will overtake 2G as 4G also gains traction. In South Africa we are already piloting and rolling out 5G,” Ramaphosa said.
The Mara factory is located at the Dube Trade Port, near Durban’s King Shaka international airport, which is a special economic zone (SEZ).
“International best practice supports the catalytic role of SEZ’s. For example, in 1978 China established the Shenzhen Economic Zone in Guangdong province.”
Now, an estimated 90% of all consumer electronics are made in Shenzhen.
Ramaphosa said the factory would help “bridging the technological divide” in the country.
“Mara phones is a proudly African venture, which is set to put the continent on the map with regard to mobile cell phone technology. The company’s efforts represent a great advance in the technological and electronic manufacturing sector, fulfilling our aspiration of becoming producers, not importers of technology.”