Sico Technology currently offers a brand of phone, Nile X that sells for as low as $80. Now, the company has started to build smartphones for Indian and Chinese firms and will scale up to producing electronic items like televisions, satellite receiver boxes and electronic payment devices(POS).
SICO was founded in 2003 and has its headquarters in Cairo. Egypt. It is 20% owned by Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and targets production of more than 2 million devices of various brands next year, up from the current rate of 1.5 million.
The Chief Executive Officer, Mohamed Salem, in a statement, said that technology centres have to be distributed around the world. Having one away from Asia will be of great benefit to Africa.
“International companies will benefit from the presence of a manufacturing center away from East Asia. The pandemic’s disruption to supply chains proved that technological and industrial centers must be distributed around the world.”Mohamed Salem, SICO CEO
Hong Kong-based smartphone company, Infinix signed a cooperation deal with SICO last year as the first global manufacturer of smartphones to launch production lines for its products in Egypt.
Mobile phone manufacturing in Africa
AfriOne, the first Nigerian phone making company in Lagos launched its products in 2017.
While the products have great specifications and affordable pricing, they cannot be said to have penetrated the smartphone market as it is competing with big players like Tecno, Infinix and other long-existing brands.
People generally prefer foreign products rather than homemade products. This is as a result of the low quality of such materials. This is not impugning local businesses but people would rather buy what they know than something new, even if it is better.
In February 2020, Nigeria mentioned plans to unveil a made-in-Nigeria phone but this was not delivered until June 2021. The ITF Mobile, as the phone is called is being produced by the Electrical/Electronics Technology Department of the Industrial Training Fund’s (ITF) Model Skills Training Centre, using locally sourced components.
Access to and use of mobile telephony in sub-Saharan Africa has increased dramatically over the past decade. Mobile phones have evolved from just being used to receive calls and send texts to being the centre of our lives. Real-time information is accessible on smartphones, business transactions are conducted through it.
Numbers gotten from Statista indicates that the current number of smartphone users in Nigeria ranges from 25m to about 40m and that number is set to triple by 2025.
By the end of 2020, 495 million people subscribed to mobile services in Sub-Saharan Africa, representing 46% of the region’s population – an increase of almost 20 million in 2019.
In 2020, transactions on mobile money platforms reached $490 billion, showing just how much people rely on their smartphones to do business.
Due to the economic crunch caused by the pandemic and also inflation, smartphone prices have soared and what was barely affordable has now become out of reach. The average entry-level, internet-enabled handset costs more than 120% of the monthly earnings of the poorest 20% in the region, according to GSMA.
The effect of the presence of an African phone manufacturing plant like SICO remains to be seen. Hopefully, it will impact the accessibility of smartphones by making it even more accessible.