Last year we wrote about Positivo, who are locally manufacturing laptops in Rwanda. It was big news because manufacturing has long been dwindling in Africa, due to the the power of Asia. Slowly, but surely, manufacturing is making a comeback to the African continent and tech companies are at the forefront.
This month, Positivo has once again made the news, this time alongside Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. The Kenyan government is insistent that its students of all levels are ICT literate, and for this they need to have access to computers and tablets. Positivo and JKUAT have assembled the 2000 tablets at a plant located on the university campus. This tablets will be distributed to schools across 21 different counties.
There are many other projects that empower students in primary and secondary schools with technology. The BRCK and other mobile technologies are trying to bring schools online, and assist teachers. This project is exciting because they have the capacity to produce 600 new tablets every day. It will not only speed up the process of empowering Kenyan students but also the model could be used across the continent to increase the level of schooling using tech.
The One-Laptop per Child program finally began in 2016, with the aim, as the name suggests, to give all students access to a solar powered laptop or tablet. So far, 700,000 tablets and laptops that have been distributed have come from from China. The new production line at JKUAT assembles tablets from components that have been sent from China. The main thing though, they are Kenyan made for Kenya!
So what does this mean for the rest of the continent. Kenya has already seen the benefit of finishing the final stage of manufacturing locally. Components are still cheaper to buy from China, but creating manufacturing hubs boosts local economies, creating employment, and cutting the import costs. With employment an issue across the continent, more manufacturing hubs could be the answer. There is huge demand for mobile phones, tablets and laptops. If this demand can be met using local assembly lines, the Africa can benefit massively.
What is also a very positive sign is that firms like Positivo, who are based mainly in Latin America, have seen the benefit of local African manufacturing and are shifting some of their business to the continent. It is not only laptops, phones and tablets that can be manufactured in Africa. Just last December, Volkswagon announced that they would also be opening a production line in Kenya. As well as giving over 600 jobs, this hub also utilises many suppliers from other parts of Africa, further strengthening African manufacturing.
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