Smartphone Manufacturing Migrates Away from China

Zambia’s minister of technology and science, Felix Mutati, has announced the country’s plans to open a smartphone factory by June 2024. Mutati made the announcement at the ongoing Africa Fintech Summit in Lusaka, Zambia.

“Building the gadgets in the country will enable us to reduce the cost of smartphones in the country and hence foster inclusivity when it comes to connectivity,” Mutati stated.

Mutati further added that access to smartphones would boost the reach of fintech startups in the country as the devices are enablers of access to fintech services provided by the startups. In another effort to boost connectivity, Mutati also stated that the government plans to construct over 100 community digital centers nationwide.

According to the 2021 World Bank FinDex report, 24% of adult Zambians aged 15 years and above owned a financial institution account. Of these, only 10% used mobile money or an online service to make payments and purchases. The purpose of the smartphone factory, per Mutati’s explanation, would be to boost these connectivity numbers and hence access to fintech services like mobile money.

In October 2022, the government also announced that it would zero-rate imports of telecoms equipment, including smartphones, in a bid to encourage investment into the country’s ICT sector, which the government views as essential to job creation and economic development in the market.

Data by ZambiaPrice states that smartphones in the country cost an average of between 2,500 kwacha (~$114) to 4,000 kwacha (~$182). However, data from the JCTR Home Survey report states that the average salary in Zambia is between 1,000 kwacha (~$45) and 3,000 kwacha (~$137), showing the discrepancy between income and affordability of devices for even employed Zambians.

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