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Kenya plans to roll out the first consignment of one million locally assembled smartphones in two months at a unit retail price of Ksh5,484 ($40), in a bid to foster digital access and inclusion.

ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo said the affordability of smart devices has been a major hindrance to digital inclusion, hence the need to produce the gadgets locally.

He said the low-cost smartphones are being assembled at the Konza Technopolis in Malili, Machakos County.

“Based on feasibility studies undertaken, we can locally assemble smartphones at a unit cost of about $40. We’ve partnered with the private sector to ensure in the next two months, we can roll out our first consignment of low-cost smartphones,” Owalo said during the official launch of the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) week at the Nairobi Safari Park on Wednesday.

“We are aware of the affordability crisis of smart devices as a potential hindrance to the ability of citizens to tap the full potential that this sector presents and we have actively engaged stakeholders in private and manufacturing to produce low-cost smartphones,” he added.

ICT declines to speak

The Business Daily has asked for access to the assembling plant to independently verify the operations and have access to prototypes, but the ICT officials are yet to grant the request.

The CS also declined to reveal the exact firms assembling the phones.

The CS also did not disclose the companies the government has partnered with. The only firms the state has direct control of are Telkom and Safaricom.

If the deal goes as planned, then the state will have found a way to rekindle hopes in the Konza City dream which has failed to attract enough investors to support its take-off.

In 2013, 14 firms expressed interest in the first stage of the Konza City project, dubbed the African Silicon Savannah, which was set to be carried out in four phases of five years each.

These firms included Safaricom and Wananchi Online- a Kenyan internet service provider.

Foreign companies were Chinese firm Huawei Technologies, Korean electronics giant Samsung and Telemac of the US among others.

Attempts to reach the Telecommunication Principal Secretary Prof Edward Kisiang’ani to respond to our questions on the firms behind the local assembly of smartphones failed.

In March 2022, Kenya inked a three-year deal dubbed the Economic Innovation Partnership Program with the Korean government to fast-track the actualisation of the Konza City dream.

Smartphones penetrations

Official data from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) show that penetration of feature phones or non-smartphones is 68.1 percent as of the end of December 2022.

Smartphone penetration in the country stands at 60.2 per cent.

“The number of mobile subscriptions increased from 65.5 million reported last quarter to 65.7 million during the reference period, representing a penetration rate of 133.1 percent,” said CAK in the latest quarterly report.

Owalo said the low uptake of smartphones has hindered the uptake of other government and financial services.

The state also plans to accelerate digital inclusion through an initial 5,000km of the planned 100,000km of fibre optic cable by June this year, a project partially funded by the World Bank.

The CS said Ksh68.55 billion ($500m) from the World Bank is meant for digital inclusion for fibre connection across the country.

“We have received $500 million from the World Bank towards the digital transformation agenda, under the Kenya digital economy acceleration programme," said Owalo.

“We have a target of rolling out 5000km of optic fibre by June 30. We have on boarded contractors and reach out to other government agencies including the Kenya Power and Lighting Company, Kenya Pipeline Company, Kenya Railways Corporation, Kenya Electricity Transmission Company and we’ll good to go," he added.

Under the infrastructure pillar of the country’s digital transformation agenda, the five-year plan to lay an additional 100,000km of the national fibre optic cable was first announced by President Ruto in October last year, a month after he assumed office.

Some 52 per cent of the proposed 100,000km of the optic cable will be laid by the government while the rest will be done by the private sector.

The project is aimed at hastening internet connectivity across the country, as well as making its access stable and reliable. - Business Daily


President Paul Kagame has issued a rallying call to African leaders and captains of the industry attending the Transform Africa summit to move quickly and embrace the Artificial Intelligence technology, citing that the leaders should “make it work for us (Africa)”.

Addressing hundreds of participants at this year’s summit underway in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Kagame said that transforming Africa means digitizing the continent’s economies.

“Already many of the new quality jobs being created in Africa are powered by technology and connectivity. That applies even to traditional sectors like Agriculture, mining and retail” Kagame told a packed hall at Elephant Hills Resort, adding that the trend is “only going to speed up.”

At the summit, he was also joined by several Heads of State including host President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi, His Majesty King Mswati III of the Kingdom of Eswatini, and Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia, among other high-ranked officials.

To step up digital transformation on the continent, Kagame said that everyone has to be connected to affordable broadband and also be able to have a smart device.

Mobile broadband penetration has been spreading rapidly, but more than 60 percent of Africans who have access don’t use it. We need to also keep reducing costs, Kagame urged participants.

Equally troubling, he said, is that a big piece of the puzzle is digital skill and literacy.

“One reason many Africans are not taking full advantage of the internet is that they are not yet comfortable with the interface or sometimes the language barrier factor.”

According to President Kagame other bottlenecks include digital identity and cyber security as well as continental integration such as the African Continental Free Trade Area or the One Africa network.

“We need to make digital identities of individuals and businesses portable across borders while using technology to reduce barriers to trade.”

“All of this is within our power to achieve. We just need to move faster with a sense of urgency.”

Embracing AI is key

President Kagame also urged African leaders to open their doors and explore the potential that artificial intelligence can have in critical sectors like agriculture, health and education.

“This powerful technology has made headlines in recent weeks, for the right reasons, at most. It is still unclear how it will affect existing jobs and what safety concerns there will be, but it is also already possible seeing that Africa has the most to gain.”

This is because AI applications can narrow productivity gaps between African firms and their competitors on other continents.

“We should therefore move quickly to embrace AI and make it work for us.”

Kagame’s call comes just a few days after Rwanda adopted the national Artificial Intelligence (AI) policy, that among others aims to harness AI, digital and emerging technologies to support the country’s development goals (including sustainable and inclusive growth), become an ICT and Innovation Hub, and position Rwanda as a leader on the African and global stage.

Africa lagging behind

For Lacine Kone, Chief Executive at Smart Africa, despite digitization having a foothold in every sector in Africa, integration remains low on the continent.

This, he said, calls for a collective effort to transition and transform Africa.

According to Kone, this year’s summit, which also marks 10 years of Smart Africa Alliance existence, comes at a time when Africa needs to leapfrog emerging technologies such as AI applications.

“10 years is a major milestone. Our celebration is not a festivity but an occasion to look back and look ahead at the mountains we must still climb. From seven founding members to 36 members representing 1,1 billion people, we are still growing.”

For instance, he said, Africa, among other factors, remains the lowest in internet penetration at roughly 38 percent–less than 60 percent of the average.

“This is not the Africa we want; we need to move faster. And the 4th industrial revolution allows us to. We must redesign ourselves for the challenge and opportunity Africa faces.” - Edwin Ashimwe, The New Times


NAIROBI, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- Kenyan automotive firm, Associated Vehicle Assemblers (AVA), said Tuesday that it will assemble 130 electric buses manufactured by Chinese automotive firm BYD in 2023.

Matt Lloyd, managing director of AVA, told Xinhua in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi that so far it has assembled 15 BYD electric buses for the local market that were imported as a collection of parts.

"The advantage of BYD is that it is one of the world's leaders in the manufacture of electric vehicles and the level of quality of the vehicles is very high," Lloyd said on the sidelines of an electric vehicle forum.

Lloyd observed that locally assembled BYD buses have high safety standards and will therefore enhance Kenya's overall road safety. He revealed that his firm has gained modern automotive technology through the technical advice it has received from BYD. - Xinhua

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