Kenya officially launched its smartphone assembling plant and unveiled two locally assembled smartphones. The facility to assemble affordable 4G smartphones is called the East Africa Device Assembly Kenya (EADAK) plant. President Willian Ruto was the chief guest at the event. Located at Graylands Warehouse in Athi River, EADAK is a partnership between Safaricom, Jamii Telecom (JTL), ITTC (China), and TeleOne (China). The Kenya assembled smartphone will bear the Neon Brand which already has the models in the market. What is different is that the phones are now assembled in Kenya.
Kenya Assembled Smartphone Cost
The two devices are Neon Smarta retailing for KES 7,499 and Neon Ultra which will be sold at KES 8,999. The cheapest of the two will retail at US$ 50, a US$ 10 increase from the consistent promise that the phone will cost US$ 40. It also makes the phones more expensive than the Neon models currently in stores. This contradicts the statement by the president that the Kenya-assembled Smartphone phones “cut import costs for similar devices by 30%”. Safaricom has confirmed that the locally assembled phones will be available in all Safaricom outlets and touchpoints. Faiba dealers will also have the phones in store as well as eCommerce platform, Masoko. In terms of accessories, the Kenyan smartphone will come with a screen protector, charger, and earphones when customers buy it.
Through a Pay As You Go (Lipa Mdogo Mdogo) plan, customers can deposit KES 1,000 at purchase and pay for the device slowly as they use it. The payment plan for these devices will start in January next year. President Ruto promises that the government will keep working with stakeholders to reduce the cost. The affordable smartphone is set to target over 60% of phone users who are stuck with feature phones “Mulika Mwizi” due to cost. The device will come preloaded with eCitizen. This is essential as the government is planning to digitize “all government services“.
EADAK to Serve the Region
In terms of market, the Kenya assembled Smartphones will be sold locally and regionally. “ I will lead the charge to make sure, the products we get from this factory, the products we get from all our other factories have access not just to the Kenyan market, but to the regional market.” : said President Ruto.
The EADAK plant promises quality phones with the use of humans, machines and robotics in the manufacturing process. EADAK can produce 3 million smartphones a year. The envisioned daily production target is 10,000 but the current rate is 4000 units. In future, the EADAK plant promises to produce other IoT devices such as tablets, routers, smart meters and much more. The plant currently employs 300 Kenyans.
Ministry of Health First Clients
The initiative is a symbol of government-enabled initiatives that aim to benefit both Kenyans and GoK as customers. Ministry of Health is the first customer for the EADAK plant. The ministry has bought 100,000 devices for its Community Health Workers (CHWs) in the country. Additionally, the Health Ministry is working to geo-fence the phones. Geo-fencing will prevent misuse of government devices outside the health workers’ areas of jurisdiction.
Industry stakeholders spoke of the critical role they play in digital transformation. Safaricom CEO, Peter Ndegwa spoke of the Lipa Mdogo Mdogo finance option, which has since enabled one million customers to purchase smartphones. He also spoke of the 14,000km of fibre coverage achieved by the telco. Calling on policy support to aid infrastructure protection, the Safaricom CEO said: “Your excellency, we seek your support in classifying telecommunication infrastructure as critical infrastructure“.
Furthermore, Mr Ndegwa followed the path of fellow African telco executives in calling for government subsidies on smartphones. He gave an example of Rwanda where smartphones have a subsidy of up to 20 USD. On his part, the JTL CEO is calling for the government and industry stakeholders to come together and track smartphones via IMEI. This is in order to flag grey imports and clamp on tax evasion. His point was reinterated by the president