Zambia Follows Kenya, Announces Plans for Smartphone Manufacturing Plant

Zambia Smartphone Manufacturing plant with Chinese ZTE

In the wake of Kenya’s inauguration of its first smartphone assembly plant, Zambia has revealed plans for a smartphone manufacturing plant. Work on the Zambian plant is scheduled to begin in June 2024. The initiative was unveiled by Zambia’s Minister of Technology and Science, Felix Mutati, during the Africa Fintech Summit 2023. It aims to enhance connectivity, making it more accessible and affordable for the nation’s citizens.

This ambitious endeavour serves a dual purpose: to reduce the costs associated with importing smartphones and to foster broader digital inclusion. Similar to Kenya, the Central African country’s project will have a Chinese manufacturer. Zambian government will partner with Chinese technology giant ZTE. Kenyans will remember ZTE as the company that brought the affordable Feature phone dubbed “Kabambe”. ZTE is has also a telecommunications equipment supplier in the region working with brands such as Jamia Telecom.

Zambia’s decision to venture into smartphone manufacturing comes as a response to the challenges of high smartphone prices. It is seeking to address this issue by making locally produced devices more affordable for the population. It is the latest African country to turn to local production of smartphones in a bid to make them cheaper. In 2019, Rwanda launched its first smartphone factory. North African country Egypt launched its first locally assembled Smartphone, the Nile X, in 2017.

High Taxation on Zambia Smartphone Sector

A recent survey conducted in 2022 revealed that 63.3% of Zambians have access to mobile phones. However, only 51.8% own one. Of those who own mobile phones, a mere 35.8% are smartphones. This data underscores the pressing need for more affordable smartphone options.

Notably, part of the high cost is a result of high taxation. GSMA data on combined handset tax rates in selected countries shows the country imposes a 31% tax on handsets.  Zambia ranks third in Africa in terms of excise duty levied on mobile phone usage. The 17.5 % tax rate also reduces the number of times mobile phone owners use their handsets.

It is yet to be known whether the locally manufactured phones will be subjected to similar tax regimes. The launch of the smartphone manufacturing plant is poised to contribute significantly to the empowerment and digital enrichment of citizens.