The Kenyan government will later this year start manufacturing affordable smartphones as promised by President William Ruto last year.
Speaking during the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 10, Ruto said Kenya will manufacture Africa’s cheapest smartphone in the next eight to twelve months.
“Today the cheapest smartphone is between sh10,000 and sh15,000. I want to promise the country that in the next 8 to 12 months we will have the cheapest smartphone in Africa, manufactured in Kenya,” President Ruto said at the time.
“The real last mile in technology is the gadget and already we are working with our Telcos so that we can have a smartphone that will go for less than Ksh5000,” he added.
On Tuesday, January 10, 2023, Cabinet Secretary for ICT and Digital Economy, Eliud Owalo, confirmed that plans are underway to start manufacturing the smartphones in July 2023.
“Although telcos such as Safaricom, Airtel, and Jamii Telecom are competitors, they have realized they need to work together to leverage some level of creativity and innovation to address a deficit in the market. That deficit is smart-enabled phones.
“With the infrastructure such as Konza already in place, we are going to roll out this initiative and start manufacturing software by around July,” he said on Citizen TV.
CS Owalo said the government is keen to make Kenyan a net exporter rather than an importer.
“The infrastructure is there. The telecom companies will set out their operations. They are not just going to manufacture telephone equipment but we are going to start manufacturing ICT software. In the not distant future, Kenya will be a net exporter of technology as opposed to being an importer,” he said.
The CS said since not all Kenyans have smartphones, the best solution to fill the market void is by manufacturing them.
“For example, today we have launched the hustler fund; most people we are targeting are those at the bottom echelons of Kenyan society. Not all of them will have smart-enabled phones. That is a market void that needs to be filled,” he said.
CS Owalo insisted that the plan is feasible and a feasibility study has already been conducted.
“It is not a question of trying out your luck. It is a feasible, bankable proposal that is in place. The feasibility study has already been done. That is what is informing the cost proposition that is envisaged. The market demand, envisaged cost of production, as well as the envisaged profit levels by the Telcos have been assessed,” he said.