These smartphones were ‘produced’ in Africa by Africans

Mint Fox phones produced by South African-based company

The mobile telephony industry has evolved over the years with a transition from feature phones to smartphones. Smartphones have gained huge popularity worldwide and have become a viable business venture.

The biggest producers of smartphones are Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Huawei and many others with little or none from the African continent which is considered to be the fastest growing mobile market with an estimated half a billion unique mobile subscribers by 2020, according to the 2017 Mobile Economy report by the GSM Association (GSMA) trade organisation.

These big phone producers outside the continent have also capitalized on the market to produce lower-priced smartphones. However, some few African companies have made attempts to mass produce cheaper smartphones for Africans.

Many of these African companies either import the smartphones built for them in China or import the parts from China and assemble them locally. Some have claimed to be producing “Made In Africa” phones, but the tag has become more of a cliche to represent assembly.

Here are four African companies that are making attempts to produce phones in Africa.

Onyx Connect – South Africa

This is a South African startup company with a plan to become the “first company to ever manufacture smartphones in Africa,” it said in 2016.

The company launched its factory last year and with an $11 million investment from undisclosed investors, it began mass-producing a $30 smartphone.

Its low-cost smartphone will run on a “clean” version of Android after signing a licensing deal with Google in December 2016 to use the clean Android software.

Onyx imports its components from overseas and builds its smartphones from the circuit board up in South Africa, says Onyx sales director Andre Van der Merwe who told CNN that their manufacturing process distinguishes them from other phones assembled in the country.

VMK – Republic of Congo

In 2015, the Congolese startup VMK opened a plant in Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo to “produce” smartphones including its Elikia brands.

Its “Made In Africa” mantra was later debunked in a report that claimed the company was buying phones made in China and adding extra money for the Chinese company to slap their VMK brand on them.

However, they sold the phones in Congo and the Ivory Coast which were their major market.

Mint Electronics – South Africa

Mint Electronics is a subsidiary of the South African company Sekoko Holdings. The company acquired 75% share in CZ Electronics and launched the first-ever line of South African-made smartphones and tablets.

The smartphones are retailing at between $57 to $142 with both seven- and 10-inch screen tablet versions.

Mara Corporation Limited (MCL) – Uganda

This company was founded by Ugandan entrepreneur Ashish J. Thakkar and it’s set to launch a smartphone in 2018 which will be low cost, quality, and tailor-made for Africa.

In the second quarter of 2018, the company is expected to release two smartphones: The Mara X and the Mara Z. The Mara X will use Google’s Android One program and will run the latest Android operating system, 8.0 Oreo. It has also been optimized for Google Assistant.

The Mara Z will run the Android Oreo (Go edition), a configuration of Android specifically optimized for devices with 1GB of RAM or less.

This article by Ismail Akwei was first published on

Published by Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei is an international journalist, digital media and communications professional, editor, writer, arts, culture and tourism advocate, human rights activist, pan-Africanist, tech enthusiast and history buff. He has worked with multinational media companies across Africa and has over a decade’s experience in journalism.

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