In a move to boost the economy and support the local technology startup ecosystem, Kenya's government has stated that it has set aside KSh 1 billion (approximately $9,9 million) to help local startups design and manufacture mobile phones in the country. This was announced by Joseph Mucheru, Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communications, and Technology in Kenya, at the annual meeting of the country's ICT industry.

Mucheru further highlighted that the East Afrikan country imports 50 million mobile phones every two years.

"Why can't we leverage on the skills available locally to manufacture these handsets that are suitable for our markets?" Mucheru is reported to have asked.

Mucheru also added that part of the funds allocated should be used by Kenyan startups to develop software to run on mobile phones.

Concerns around imported mobile phones

In recent years there have been concerns highlighted regarding imported mobile phones into Kenya. These concerns specifically speak to Android based handsets imported from China.

The first concern has been about so called fake phones, these are substandard mobile devices circulating in the Kenyan market. The other concern is around how some Android manufacturers are potentially harvesting user data without their consent.

With the manufacturing of Kenyan phones and locally developed mobile phone software, these concerns could be mostly addressed but other issues then arise.

Game of phones

The first step would be for Kenya to start training and building factories where these mobile phones would be manufactured. After that, is the costs associated with marketing the new brand of mobile phones as alternatives to those brands that are popular among Kenyans, and they'd have to do all this while making sure that they sell at a competitive price and still being profitable in the long term.

Another consideration is, considering Mucheru mentioned development of mobile software, whether this means the development of a new mobile OS too or will they adopt Android?

These are just a few of the issues that would need to be navigated for the initiative to be succesful. Having said that, the thinking is commendable and worthy of support.


Cover image credit: Joseph Mucheru, Cabinet Secretary for ICT in Kenya. Wikipedia