The Kenyan government has earmarked $10 million (about one billion Kenya shillings) into startups that are aimed at manufacturing mobile phones as the East African country joins a growing list of African countries that are already developing their own locally-made handsets.
But the Kenya minister for Information and Communications Technology, Joe Mucheru, said they plan to manufacture mobile phones that suit the local markets in terms of cost and quality.
“Why can’t we leverage on the skills available locally to manufacture these handsets that are suitable for our markets?” Mucheru is reported as telling a business forum in Nairobi last week.
He added that his country imports 50 million mobile phones every two years.
The money will go into training and building factories where these mobile phones will be manufactured.
Since 2002, Kenya’s technology services sector has grown to more than £300 million (2013) up from just £11 million.
At root, this technology renaissance has been spurred by mobile phone penetration.
Almost 98% of the Kenyan population has access to a mobile phone, according to the Communications Authority of Kenya.
The country has 45.5 million mobile phone subscribers, data from the sector regulator show, who use a range of imported mobile devices from companies like Apple and Huawei.
This increasing ownership has also driven subscriptions to mobile money.
The development means Kenya joins Egypt, Republic of Congo and South Africa in manufacturing mobile phones.
Last December, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also launched Nile X, a smartphone developed by Egyptian technology company SICO for local consumers.
It remains to be seen how the country will compete with the already established brands which are already in the country. Tecno, itel, and Infinix account for 54% of devices owned by locals.
Chinese handset maker Transsion Holdings will also prove a serious challenge for any Kenyan brand: using its research centers in Kenya and Nigeria and factories in Ethiopia, the Shenzhen-based company produces phones in and for the continent, some as cheap as $10.