New Mara Group Cell Phone Factory Opening in South Africa

Efforts to revive South Africa’s sluggish economy and create much-needed employment are set to receive a major boost with the launch of Mara Phone’s first cell phone manufacturing plant in South Africa.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, as part of the recently launched District-Based Development Model, will later this week launch the Mara Phone Plant at Dube Trade Port in KwaZulu-Natal.

During South Africa’s inaugural Africa Investment Forum in November last year, company founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ashish Thakkar, 38, announced that his company would invest R1.5 billion in a South African business venture over the next five years. Almost 11 months later, the Rwanda-based Mara group has made good on its promise.

The modern state-of-the-art plant, with an annual production capacity of over 1.2 million handsets, is expected of manufacture two models of smartphones – the Mara X and Mara Z. The company plans to launch upgraded versions annually.

According to the company’s website, The Mara X costs $179 (approximately R2,683), and the Mara Z costs $254 (approximately R3,806). Both phones have 720x1440p HDR-capable screens utilizing Corning Gorilla Glass. The cheaper Mara X has a MediaTek MT6739 quad core processor, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage, as well as a fingerprint reader. It runs Android Go (a lightweight version of Android). The more expensive Mara Z has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 processor, 3GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage, as well as both a fingerprint reader and facial recognition for unlocking, and runs full Android. The Mara Z is part of Google’s Android One program, which provides a manufacturer unalterable version of near-stock Android, as well as 3 years of frequent security updates, and 2 years of operating system updates.

The venture will generate hundreds of high-skilled direct jobs and thousands of indirect jobs. It will contribute to the transfer of technology and high-tech knowledge in South Africa. On its Twitter account, Mara Phones said more than 60% of the staff at the plant are women while 90% of the workforce will be youth.

Mara Z smartphone.

The production is expected to serve the domestic market as well as the regional market, especially the SADC region, contributing to strategies that position South Africa as the gateway to Africa.

Given the location of the operations, Mara Phones will be designated as a local product once production commences. Promotion will be conducted through a mix of traditional and digital/online media while utilising local platforms to influence local markets.

The phones are expected to be listed on commerce sites such as Jumia, Konga, and Amazon. The company also plans to sell the phones via retail partnerships with telecom operators Vodafone, MTN and Airtel.

Addressing reporters at the Investment Forum last year, Thakkar said his company had plans to develop the phone in plants across the continent’s five regions.

Mara Group founder and CEO Ashish Thakkar (right), with Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), holding replicas of the new Mara smartphones to be produced in South Africa, during a AfDB event in 2018.

“We all know the importance of high quality and affordable smartphones and the impact this can have on the continent. Quality smartphones mean we can truly enable financial inclusion, micro-lending and micro-insurance. This can translate into better education, digital healthcare and agriculture efficiency and improve commerce.

“If this is all going to be possible… we [need] quality and affordable smartphones. Unfortunately, we have quality smartphones but they are not affordable and if it is affordable, it is not quality,” he said at the time.


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Five Black Rhinos Have Been Successfully Relocated to Rwanda From Europe

A chartered cargo plane, Boeing 747-400F operated by Air Atlanta under the brand name of ‘Magma’ carrying the five black rhinos touched down at the Kigali International Airport.

Offloading the rhinos from the plane kicked off soon as the plane landed. A team of airport staff first offloaded huge cargo of supplies containing feed for the rhinos.

The three female and two male black rhinos, ranging between two to nine years old, were selected from European zoos. Jasiri, Jasmina and Manny were born in Safari Park Dvur Kralove, Czech Republic. Olmoti comes from Flamingo Land in UK while Mandela is from Ree Park Safari in Denmark.

The Eastern black rhinos follow a batch of other rhinos, which were brought to Rwanda from South Africa in 2017. Officials, including the Head of Conservation at Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and African Parks which manages Akagera National Park, were around to witness the arrival of the critically endangered species.

According to Safari Park Druv Kralove, the plane took off from the Czech Republic at around 7:45 am on Sunday. They were transported to Akagera by three separate trucks. Overall, their transportation to Akagera Park from Czech Republic will have taken around 30 hours. This is the largest ever translocation of rhinos from Europe to Africa.

The translocation of the rhinos is the result of what has been described as “unique collaboration between the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), the Government of Rwanda and conservation NGO African Parks.

It was first announced last year that EAZA zoos had donated the highly endangered species to Rwanda. The Head of Conservation at RDB told The New Times recently that the rhinos will bring considerable benefits to the country.

“Even though we already have rhinos from South Africa, to ensure a healthy population, you have to bring in species that is from a different group to allow integration,” he said.

The more you bring in rhinos to integrate, he added, the more the assurance of strength of genes that are strong and resistant.


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Rwandan President Kagame Makes a Case for Investment in Africa

Rwandan President Kagame said that Africa is open to business partnerships with the rest of the world and has since improved in openness and was moving as a bloc toward a free trade area.

President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, has called for increased investment in Africa, saying that countries on the continent understand the importance of foreign direct investments on their economies and have been working to create a friendly environment.

Kagame was speaking on Thursday evening in New York, United States at an NBA Board of Governors meeting that attracted NBA club owners and executives.

The President said that Africa is open to business partnerships with the rest of the world and has since improved in openness and was moving as a bloc toward a free trade area.

“Africans are beginning to understand that there are certain things we have to get for ourselves as they seek partnerships with the rest of the world,” the Head of State said.

Kagame said that the African continent has also been rolling out several integration initiatives further improving the business conditions.

“Africa is open to doing business with the rest of the world, Africa has a lot to offer,” he said.

He added: We are seeing increased openness, we have created a continental free trade area with 50 African countries signing up to that, with a number of them having already ratified the agreement.”

“We have brought Africa together and united it through regional integration. This is of interest to Africa but should be of interest to the United States and other partners as well.”

The President told the American investors in presence that the right moment to invest on the continent would be now because their ventures would grow with the continent.

“This is the moment to invest in Africa. You don’t have to wait, invest now and grow with Africa as it grows,” the Head of State added.

Kagame said that one of the benefits of investing in Africa is the demographic dividend, with a majority of the population being youthful.

The President also shared insights into Rwanda’s recovery following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed over one million lives.

He said that after the Genocide almost everything was a priority for the country considering the destruction.

“Everything was a priority and the biggest challenge was where do you start from? We started from scratch, we started by putting pieces together, bringing people back together, justice, security, rebuilding schools,” he said.

Over time, Kagame said, the country was able to create its own unique solutions and roll out initiatives which helped promote unity and reconciliation.

“In a period of 12 years, we created a justice system based on our tradition where we tried over one million people. We look back and find that national unity has been holding, justice has taken place, there has been forgiving,” he said.

Earlier Thursday, President Kagame held talks with the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.


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Private Schools in Rwanda Close Down as Public Schools Become More Attractive to Parents

Private schools in Rwanda are on the verge of closing down due to low patronage. A report by Daily Nation says desperate proprietors who face closure of their institutions are now asking the government to sponsor students in private schools at public rates.

But the government has rejected the idea.

The “problem” started with the government’s twelve-year basic education policy which made public schools affordable and preferable.

According to the report, the Ministry of Education invested hugely in expanding capacity and teaching infrastructure at public schools across the country; introduced the school feeding programme and abolished school fees.

More than 30 private schools are said to have closed indefinitely this year, while others are struggling to stay afloat after losing students to public schools.

School owners told Rwanda Today that even those that had managed to stay open were struggling to meet their operational costs.

“We’ve suffered a sharp decline in the number of students enroled, yet the school has accumulated debt, unpaid salaries and owes arrears to suppliers. It is not clear if the school will re-open,” said Samuel Batamba, the head teacher at College Nkunduburezi in Gakenke District.

Mr Batamba said the school used to have 900 students but now has only 80 students after it failed to attract new students while others enrolled in public schools.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Education, the government owns 460 out of the more than 1,575 schools in the country.

The rest are run by religious bodies with the Catholic church owning 620 schools, the Anglican church 279, Adventist church 22 and Muslim schools are at 16. Another 178 schools are run by parents’ associations and individuals.

The most affected institutions are private boarding schools.

Figures show that students in private schools decreased from 101,510 in 2012 to 79,076 last year while enrolment in public and government-aided schools almost doubled in the same period.

According to John Gasana, the Vice chairman of the Private Schools Association, competing with public schools requires huge capital investment to improve infrastructure, equipment and hiring skilled teachers, something many private schools cannot afford.


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Sources: Newspeak [1]. Image sources: [1].