African telecoms operator Africell, has announced that from January 2022, it will begin assembling up to 30,000 of its Afriphone handsets at a specialized Industry Five facility in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Africell says the availability of the Afriphone handsets is subject to performance standards tests, before distribution to the DRC’s population of 90 million + people.
Africell and Industry Five expect the first DRC-made Afriphones to be ready from February 2022. After an initial ‘shakeout’ phase, production will increase and up to a half a million Afriphone handsets could be assembled in the following twelve months.
Industry Five’s factory in Kinshasa will be equipped with award-winning modular and mobile workstations. Highly trained local technicians will assemble Afriphone devices on site, assisted by state-of-the art collaborative robots. Performance testing and quality checks will also occur at the facility.
“We want to encourage a critical mass of the skills and functions necessary to the production of mobile technology to take root in DRC. This is why we are collaborating with Industry Five. By assembling consumer mobile technology here in DRC, we hope to energize the local supply chain, mitigate the supply risks inherent in a highly globalized industry, and direct more of the benefits of booming mobile usage back into DRC’s economy”, said Milad Khairallah, CEO of Africell DRC.
The production process can also be decentralized, meaning that future technical activity could happen at sites in Lubumbashi, Goma, or Bandundu – in addition to Kinshasa, DRC’s capital city.
Industry Five Group’s Chairman, JP Folsgaard-Bak, believes that assembling Afriphones locally is a big step forward in the development of the DRC’s telecommunications sector.
“This initiative challenges a common view that the only viable way to get mobile phone into the hands of African consumers is to import them box-ready”, he says. “Instead, we are investing in the workforce and facilities that will bring a key section of the supply chain onto African soil. Advantages include the creation of jobs, more competitive pricing, and a mobile sector in the DRC that is better able to withstand global supply shocks.”
The decision to assemble Afriphones in DRC reflects a broader commitment by both Africell and Industry Five to developing the regional market. In 2021, Africell undertook a record-breaking network expansion in the country, extending infrastructure and launching telecommunications services in several new provinces.
Meanwhile, Industry Five’s facilities in DRC are expected to produce a growing range of technology devices, including tablets, laptops, high performance servers, and data storage solutions. The company expects to generate up to five thousand skilled technical jobs in DRC within five years.