Mara Phones is a smartphone brand owned by Mara Group and is heradquartered in Kigali, Rwanda. The brand began to manufacture its first smartphones from a South African plant in 2018. The company says its mission is to produce smartphones for African and global markets.
Mara claims that its Rwanda facility is the first to fully manufacture smartphones 100% locally in Africa, different from product assembly as carried out at other phone factories across the continent. According to the company, all components of the products, including chips, are made locally.
Nigeria’s Afrione has a factory in Lagos, opened in 2017, and where it assembles feature phones, smartphones, and accessories.
Mara’s claim about 100% locally sourced components is hard to believe. There are very few manufacturers in the world that have the capacity to build devices 100% from scratch.
For example, what Processors do Mara phones use? Qualcomm Snapdragon. Those are not built by Mara. Corning Gorilla Glass used in the Mara Z is not made in Rwanda either. There are more that can be pointed out. At the end of the day, the claim sounds more like a PR/marketing stunt.
Mara Phones’ Kigali factory employs over 200 staff, currently produces 1,000 phones a day, though it has has the capacity to manufacture over 5,000 units a day.
Mara Phones Products – Made in Africa
Mara mobile products currently include two smartphones, the entry-level Mara X, and the mid-range Mara Z. Both phones are claimed to be the first truly made in Africa smartphones by the company (and that is arguable, as this article has pointed out earlier) and they exist in the sub-$200 price segment.
In addition, the two Mara phones run stock Android OS and are Android One devices, with the promise of two Android OS version updates. Both models come pre-installed with Mara Mentor, while the Mara Z also has the Thrive Away app pre-installed in addition.
The two Mara phone models are available in Kigali, Rwanda and will face off better priced devices from TECNO Mobile, Samsung, and itel, among others.
Mara Phones – Markets and Territories
Mara Phones has operations in Rwanda, South Africa, and United Arab Emirates (UAE).
There are conflicting reports about Mara’s smartphone manufacturing plant in South Africa. Some reports say manufacturing started in South Africa in 2018 , while others claim that the Durban plant will come on stream in October 2019.
The company has also expressed interest in establishing a factory in Nigeria, the continent’s largest mobile market. As such, it is expected that Mara phones will go on sale there sooner or later.
Mara reportedly looks to export its products to Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya as well. The company will need heavy export operations in order to take advantage of economies of scale to drive down the cost of its devices.
Rwanda is not exactly a large market for mobile phones. The country has an estimated population of 13 million people. In addition to the small size of the population, the mobile market in Rwanda is predominantly made up of feature phones, with smartphone penetration standing at 15% as at 2019.
Affordability is the big problem and the new phones from Mara being priced above competing products from the likes of TECNO Mobile makes them a tough sell from the start. Mara is reported to have introduced an installment payment scheme of some sort in Kigali to make them more affordable.
- Mara Phone website: Link
- Mara Group announces availability of South African manufactured smartphones: source.
- Mara proposes smartphone factory in Nigeria: source.