Africa Gets Its First ‘Homegrown’ Tablet and Smartphone


Smartphones have taken off big time in Africa, with latest figures from the World Bank revealing that the continent now has more mobile subscribers than either North America or Europe, coming only second to Asia. Up until now though, virtually all Africans have had to rely on imported technology, given the dearth of home grow phones.

That could all be about to change though, so long as Congolese entrepreneur Verone Mankou has his way. The 26-year old owner of African tech company VMK has just launched a pair of smartphone and tablet devices, which he claims are the first 100% African designs to hit the market.

The Elikia smartphone and the Way-C tablet were manufactured in China to VMK’s exact specifications, and are reported to cost $170 and $300 respectively. Both devices run the Android operating system, and have been marked as “entry-level”, reports the BBC.

While neither device is going to give the likes of Apple and Samsung much to worry about, the specs suggest that both should be able to hold their own against similar low-priced models that are popular in Africa. The Elikia smartphone, which means “hope” in English, features a 3.5-inch IPS display, is powered by a 1.2 GHz CPU, and comes with both GPS and WiFi connectivity. Meanwhile, the Way-C tablet comes with a 7-inch, 800×480 resolution display, a 1.2 GHz CPU and boasts up to six hours of battery life.

VMK says that its devices will only be available in the Democratic Republic of Congo and soon, ten other African countries. However, it hopes to market them in France, Belgium and India later in 2013.

Verone Mankou, creator of Africa’s first smartphone

Despite being labeled a start-up by the BBC, VMK has actually been around for quite a while. It was founded in 2006, with the aim of giving the general public “access to technology at affordable prices”, says Mankou. This project is still ongoing, but the company hopes it will culminate in the launch of a $50 tablet aimed at students by the middle of next year.

VMK’s current devices are a little pricier than that however, and so it remains to be seen whether or not they can compete with the likes of RIM and Nokia, whose range of cheap smartphones dominate sales on the continent.