Zambia's M.Mobile to export its handsets to other African countries: 10,000 to go to Zimbabwe


M.Mobile, Zambia's newly commissioned mobile phone manufacturing plant, has sealed a deal to supply handsets to Zimbabwe, while east African and West African countries including Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Kenya are also expected to start importing its handsets.

The Zambian plant became operational last month with an initial investment of US$3 million. Company Chairman Mohammed Seedat said the company has struck a deal to supply more than 10,000 handsets to Zimbabwe alone, while other east and southern African countries are also soon to be supplied with the phones. The Zambian plant is now assembling about 1,000 handsets per day.

The Africa region has two mobile-phone assembling plants providing locally manufactured handsets to lessen the dependence on foreign-made devices that have flooded the region's market. A-Link Technologies of Rwanda has been producing handsets in Rwanda.

The M-Tech line of handsets made in Zambia have, among other features, FM radios, phone books, color screens, alarms and calendars. Handsets are being sold for between US$40 and $45. "So many countries in the region have shown interest in purchasing our handsets," Seedat said.

A-Link Technologies of China, however, started producing handsets in Rwanda last year. A-Link Technologies has so far produced three models -- the A100, A200 and A300 -- with other models still in the works. The phones feature color screens and radios, among other amenities. Unlike the Zambian plant, the Rwandan plant only has the capacity to produce 700 handsets per day.

The Zambian plant, meanwhile, will soon be assembling phones ranging from ultra low-cost to state-of-the-art Wi-Fi connectivity phones with television capability. Early this year, the Zambian government increased customs duty on foreign-manufactured phones to 15 percent from 5 percent, to encourage local production of phones.

Mobile service providers and dealers in Zambia were selling foreign imported handsets from as low as $16. The increase in import duty on foreign-manufactured handsets means imported phones have become more expensive than locally manufactured devices, which have been exempted from tax.

The Zambian Ministry of Communications and Transport announced in February year that it was promoting the development and manufacturing of ICT products to curb spending on imports as well as to create high-tech industry. Zambia currently imports most of its ICT products and electronic goods mainly from Asia and South Africa.

In addition to mobile phones, the Zambian government wants to start manufacturing computers and television sets through the Multi-Facility Economic Zones (manufacturing zones) being established in Lusaka.

Computerworld Zambia