A 26-year-old African entrepreneur and inventor has just debuted the first African-made smartphone and tablet computer.
First, Verone Mankou introduced the first African-designed tablet, The Way C, a few months ago. Now he has just surprised the tech world with the first African-designed smartphone.
Some had doubts about both; was the quality good? Were they really African-made when much of the construction happens in China, where it is cheaper to make such products?
Mankou’s company, VMK, is based in the Republic of Congo. And when he spoke at the third annual Tech4Africa conference in Johannesburg, South Africa last month, he stressed the importance for an African company to invest in the local smartphone and tablet markets. “Only Africans can know what Africa needs,” he said, as reported by Smart Planet. “Apple is huge in the U.S., Samsung is huge in Asia, and we want VMK to be huge in Africa.”
The Way-C, or “the light of the stars” in the local Lingala language, is a small tablet roughly the size of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, according to Smart Planet. And at $300, it comes in less than the iPad mini. The Android-based smartphone is called the Elikia (”Hope”) and features a 3.5-inch display, rear and forward facing cameras, 512MB of RAM, and a 650MHz processor. The contract-free phone is $170.
This is not the first time someone has claimed to invent the first African-made tablet. A Nigerian company previously announced the first tablet to be made in Africa, but this turned out not to be the case. “A few years ago, Africa’s ‘first’ tablet was found out to be an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) product available not only in Nigeria, but throughout the world sold under different names. Its claims of being African were shot down, and the company was regarded as just another merchant pushing foreign products on local consumers,“ the article says.
Mankou’s VMK is adamant that his products are African-made. The Elikia is engraved with the words “Designed in the Republic of Congo, assembled in China.” This, the website says, is “intentionally mirroring Apple’s ‘Designed by Apple in California.’” Apple, notoriously, manufactures its products in China.
Mankou has already branched out of Africa, not only selling in 11 African countries but in countries like Belgium, France, and India.