For a long time, Africa has been exploited for its rare earths and other indispensable resources that help build the technology products we all use. Thus, it's great to see that a company in Rwanda, a country once plagued by civil war and genocide, managed to become the first to develop and build a smartphone on the continent. The Mara X and Mara Z are two budget Android devices running Android One, fully engineered and manufactured in Rwanda.
While the phones sport fairly big bezels, they're overall pretty, albeit slightly old-fashioned. Both have 18:9 IPS panels with a resolution of 720x1440 and 5.5 and 5.7-inch diagonals, respectively. They come with either dual-SIM or TF card support and have two camera lenses on the back, a fingerprint reader, and what seems to be a USB-C port. While the phones certainly aren't powerhouses with a Mediatek MT6739 and a Snapdragon 435, they're comparable to other low-end smartphones. It's not quite clear which Android version they're running, though. Parts of Mara's website say it's Android 9, while others say it's 8.1, which would be disappointing.
These smartphones are an impressive feat for Rwanda. Most Western companies outsource production to China or other Asian countries, so moving the production to a completely new location and developing brand-new devices along the way certainly makes me hope for more unusual competition in the market – after all, the company says it wants to turn Rwanda into Africa's high-tech hub. If it's successful, we might see even more African smartphones, and maybe they can become competitive in the low-end market, to begin with. This local development and production rhythm might even help produce technology under fairer conditions.
The 16GB Mara X will retail for 120,000 Rwandan francs (~$130) while the 32GB Mara Z is going for 176,000 Rwandan francs (~$190), though if you want to buy them internationally, they're going to cost you more than that. In contrast to other phones with similar hardware, the two devices are rather expensive, but the company hopes for Rwandan consumers' support and wants to bring down production costs as it grows.
- Mara Phones
- Fast Company