The Nigerians in 2012 launched their SOLO phone brand to deliver quality best content and services to users. In South Africa, two black-owned IT firms – Seemahale Telecoms and CZ Electronics, were reported to be working on locally manufactured mobile devices in 2014. The Mi-Fone mobile phone brand also calls South Africa home even though whether it’s penetrated the market or been successful is another story all together.
Closer home, Tecno Mobile in 2012 announced that it would release its Ethiopian-manufactured smartphone, the Tecno T3, in July of the same year.
Late last year, Egypt’s DailyNews reported that China’s Huawei Mobile was holding negotiations with the country’s Ministry of Investment to establish a factory for assembling smartphones within the Suez Canal Area. The devices would bear the ‘Huawei’ brand, yes, but at least they’d have been assembled within the country.
Kenya, touted as the region’s ICT hub, has up to now not released to the market any locally-assembled mobile phone. However, this is set to change with the entry of Synergy Innovations Kenya Ltd, a mobile phone distributor which launched its operations in late 2012. Synergy Innovations is an OEM manufacturer, designer and distributors of smartphones and mobile phone accessories.
Synergy Innovations, which was previously the distributor of the ‘Ole’ brand of mobile phones, has designed a new brand of smartphone called SILK (a name derived from the company’s initials).
“We sat and thought aloud: ‘For how long are we going to distribute other people’s products?”, said Michael Asola, Synergy Innovations’ group COO, adding that this question was the key reason which motivated the company’s founders to think of launching their own phone brand.
The first model in the SILK range of mobile phones is the SILK Patriot 55, which Mr Asola believes will gain traction in the local market by appealing to Kenyans’ sense of patriotism, hence the name.
Aware of but not scared by the perceived foothold of other established mobile phone brands in the local market, Mr Asola says that their approach and strategy is different as the SILK brand is meant to give the country’s mobile phone users an identify.
“Our aim is not to challenge the established brands. Ours is all about providing the country with an identity as regards mobile devices,” noted the COO.
The SILK Patriot 55, which is fitted with a Qualcom processor as well as various local apps pre-installed (including Tuko, Yielloh, Radar and Zyky among others), has a warranty of 12 + 1 months.
“The elasticity of the processor offers a good user experience to the buyer of the device. The SILK Patriot 55 smartphone has also been tested and type approved by US’ FCC, Kenya’s Communications Authority (CA) as well as the Kenya Bureau of Standards,” stated Asola.
Like almost all other phones in the market, the SILK Patriot smartphone is currently manufactured in China then shipped to Kenya even though the design is done locally.
So how about prospects or future plans of having the devices assembled locally?
“Our smartphones are soon going to be assembled locally. We’ve already identified an ideal location for our assembly plant in Thika. The place is located close to three universities – Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Kenyatta University (KU) and Mount Kenya University (MKU) – which guarantees us a pool of fresh minds from these institutions for our R&D. The facility will also be located close to the MPesa Academy,” stated Asola, adding that the target is to have the assembly plant up and running by May 2017.