S Africa’s mobile plans fail as Indian-origin businessman shuts shop
South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa (Photo by PAVEL GOLOVKIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
SOUTH AFRICAN president Cyril Ramaphosa’s hopes to make his country a major producer of mobile phones for Africa were dashed with the closure of a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility owned by an Indian-origin entrepreneur based in Rwanda.
In October 2019, the Mara facility in Durban’s Special Economic Zone was launched by Ramaphosa, who had secured a promise of investment from Indian-origin Rwandan businessman Ashish Thakkar at South Africa’s first international investment conference a year ago.
“Thanks to its value, quality and range of services, the Mara phone holds promise for our dream of access and connectivity for the marginalised people of our country and the continent,” Ramaphosa had said then.
Mara phones is a proudly African venture which would put the continent on the map with regard to mobile cellphone technology, the South African president had added.
According to the company, it had spent about half of the promised 1.5 billion rands (£73.3 million) investment on the state-of-the-art manufacturing facility.
Now, the entire factory and its contents are being auctioned with a spokesman for Park Village Auctions saying that one of the interested buyers is from India.
Auctioneer Keith Green told Business Insider South Africa website that the sale was mandated by one of the country’s five major banks, Standard Bank, and the semi-government funding agency Industrial Development Corporation.
“We’ve had one call out of India, and we’re waiting for them to come through, and we’ve had probably about three or four other guys that have already done some viewing in that industry, that are keen on it,” Green said.
He said the auction lot includes the plant, manufacturing and testing equipment, smartphone components and the completed phones kept in its storage facilities.
“The line is in very good condition and could be reworked to make other electronic components,” Green said, suggesting that the Indian party or any other buyer could be looking at entering that market, which is growing on the African continent.
The South African facility was opened a few days after Rwandan president Paul Kagame opened a Mara factory in that country, making it the first in the continent to manufacture phones.
Mara has been operating on the African continent for over two decades, with operations in technology, banking, real estate and infrastructure after starting out as a small computer-hardware trading firm in East Africa.
Thakkar founded the company as a teen when he moved to Rwanda from the UK.
(With PTI inputs)