The Mara Phone: Africa’s Smartphone Revolution

Ben FreelandTechnology, Uncategorized

Kigali, Rwanda. To the vast majority of westerners, the name conjures up horrifying images of the worst genocide in post-World War II history. Anywhere between 500,000 and one million people between April and July of 1994 were killed.

While Rwanda’s quiet transformation from international basket case to African success story has been ongoing for over a decade, last year the country truly emerged as a player on the global tech scene. With the launch of the Mara Phone X and Z, it is the world’s first entirely made-in-Africa smartphone.

Today, however, the Rwandan capital is increasingly synonymous within the country, and in Africa more generally, with a growing tech revolution. It is dominated by young entrepreneurs, many of whom weren’t even born yet when the streets of Kigali were filled with blood.

The Mara Phone

Designed in partnership with Google’s Android One Program, the Mara Phone is touted by its manufacturers as the first high-specification, affordable smartphone manufactured in Africa and geared for the continent’s explosive mobile phone market. For instance, while other African countries (including Kenya and Nigeria) have entered the phone manufacturing market, Mara remains the only entirely made-in-Africa smartphone. Factories are in both Kigali and Durban, South Africa.

The Mara Phone phenomenon also dovetails with the government of Rwanda’s highly ambitious Connect Rwanda campaign. The campaign aims to put over a million smartphones in the hands of poor, mostly rural Rwandans. Above all, this campaign is part of a broader government initiative, which aims to achieve digital literacy for all youths aged 16 to 30 by the year 2024.

As of December 2019 over 46,000 smartphones have ben pledged, and the vast majority of them are Mara Phones.

For instance, since its October 2019 launch, the Mara Phone has penetrated 53 countries. Africa represents some 60 percent of its total market and Germany being the largest single buyer.

Join one of the world’s most exciting tech revolutions

The two Mara Phone models currently on the market (X and Z) retail for US$190 and $200 respectively. This puts them well outside the price range of the average Rwandan. In February, the company announced that it would begin producing low-cost versions of its product; making it more accessible to the average African consumer. This way, they are able to compete with the low-cost Chinese-made phones that continue to dominate the African mobility market.

“We have proven that we can produce high-quality devices at the international level here in Africa,” said Mara Phone CEO Eddy Sebera in a recent Deutsche Welle interview.

“Initially there was a lot of hesitation, but we’ve now exported to over 53 countries.”

Want a new phone⁠—one that you can be fairly sure none of your friends have⁠—and support a developing country in the midst of one of the world’s most exciting tech revolutions? The sleek design and the iconic lion logo are worth the price tag alone.

Visit maraphones.com for more information.