- With just $40, customers in Kenya will buy a locally assembled smartphone starting July, 2023.
- Kenya’s mobile network coverage stands at 89.1 percent and is a key enabler of the country’s digital economy.
- The government will lay around 52 percent of 100,000km fibre network while the private sector will handle the remaining 48 percent.
Kenya’s telecommunication industry is about to gain a significant boost as the government plans to roll out the first consignment of one million domestically manufactured smartphones. They will roll out the gadgets in two months even as plans on digital transformation and e-commerce gather pace.
Kenya has been at the forefront of East Africa’s digital economy for some time now. Numerous investment opportunities have come up within the East Africa’s biggest economy catching the eye of many investors.
Transforming telecommunication industry
According to statistics, Kenya’s mobile network coverage stands at 89.1 percent, a wave that is driving more businesses into the digital space. The government has taken note and taking the initiative to ensure that each citizen acquires the means to plug into the fast-growing ecosystem.
Read also: Kenya: Mobile lender Branch International to launch the pan-African digital bank
Unfortunately, given inflationary pressures within the country, many industries, including its digital economy, are facing challenges. ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owali acknowledged the cost of smart devices and the high inflation rate could be a hinderance. These factors significantly slow the country’s pace in digital transformation. He claimed that instead of focusing on foreign products, the government should consider the possibility of local production of such devices.
Konza Technopolis in Malili, Machakos County, is assembling the inexpensive cell phones. “Based on feasibility studies undertaken, we can locally assemble smartphones at about $40. We’ve partnered with the private sector to ensure we can roll out our first consignment of low-cost smartphones in the next two months,” said Owalo
More devices, more accessibility
Owalo said this during the official Information Communication and Technology Week launch at the Nairobi Safari Park on May 17th. He added, “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.”
The fact remains that Africa’s mobile network coverage is growing. And with emerging new opportunities, the nation has to ensure that each citizen can tap into the economy with ease.
According to the Communications Authority of Kenya, only 60.2 percent of Kenya’s population has smartphones.
Digital transformation is inevitable.
Currently, the world is shifting to a more digital-oriented economy. Most businesses, startups, companies and industries have a digital presence. Ever since the Covid-19 Pandemic, a digital presence has become a vital marketing point for any business.
Read also: Swords Drawn in Kenya’s telecommunication industry
Organizations everywhere support African countries to increase their telecommunication industry and improve accessibility. According to Mr Owalo, the World Bank will aid the country by providing $500 million in funding. This funding will help in establishing a nationwide fibre connection.
The government is rolling out 5000km of optic fibre by June 30th 2023. The project is underway with contractors contacting governmental organizations such as Kenya Power, Kenya Pipeline, Kenya Railways and Kenya Electricity Transmission Company. This collaboration begins a five-year plan to construct a total of 100,000km of national fibre optic cable.
President William Ruto says that Kenya’s potential in technology is remains largely untapped. In 2022, Kenya’s tech startup received total funding of $574.8 million, doubling amount received in 2021. With the country embracing digital transformation, a sustainable mobile network system becomes very vital.
Skillsets within digital economy
The Kenya Digital Economy Acceleration Projects are among the few initiatives the country embarks on to increase its economic growth. Its main aim is to close the digital divide in accessing the country’s mobile network and increase the skillsets of individuals within the digital economy.
Read: Rwanda launches campaign to collect 1M smartphones
Keith Hansen, the World Bank Country Director from Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda, strongly believes in East Africa’s telecommunication industry. He stated that expanding access to digital technologies and services is a cross-cutting pathway to accelerate economic growth and job creation.
According to their report, the governments will lay around 52 percent of the 100,000km fibre cable while private sectors will handle the remaining 48 percent. Setting their sights on a broader mobile network will improve accessibility and information distribution throughout the country.