Somewhere along Lagos’s Oshodi Express road, AfriOne’s industrial plant is churning out smartphones from its production lines. Its workers, clad in working gear, are fixing parts and slipping the finished devices into packages. At least that’s what they’re doing on weekdays when the factory is operational.
This facility is in fact widely regarded as Nigeria’s first smartphone assembly plant. It was launched in 2017 by AfriFone limited, a digital technology firm looking to sink its feet into Nigeria’s vast market for mobile devices.
The complex has become a symbol of what’s possible in a self-sufficient country: an ambitious project employing hundreds of people, and forging a growth path for indigenous technology. It’s just one of several factories in the Ilupeju industrial scheme, but the significance of its work makes it count among the more celebrated of that lot.
Made in Nigeria, for Nigerians
Up until the opening of AfriOne’s plant in Lagos, the vast majority of smartphones in the country’s mobile retail stores were imported. That’s still the case, but just by a bit less. The AfriOne facility is said to have the capacity to produce 300,000 mobile devices each month- a small fraction of the tens of millions of smartphones owned by Nigerians. But it’s a small step forward, and hopefully, the beginning of a domestic digital device manufacturing industry.
Lekan Akinjide, AfriOne’s Chief Commercial Officer, says the company set up its production facility in Nigeria because it was looking to meet the peculiar needs of the Nigerian market for mobile devices. The biggest of these issues was cost. He points out that many smartphone products are priced beyond the reach of many Nigerians- which he says isn’t the case in most developed countries.
“We understand the Nigerian market; we understand what Nigerians want,” Akinjide explained at the ICTEL Expo in 2017. “We thought that the costs involved with acquiring technological devices shouldn’t be this high.”
While AfriOne’s current offerings aren’t exactly suited to the lowest income brackets- their flagship phones are priced just below ₦50,000- Akinjide says they’re hoping to unveil even lower cost devices as their product mix develops.
Building up for a local market
It will take some time to reach this goal though. For one thing, AfriOne’s facility assembles smartphones but has to import the components it uses. This means it still has considerable production costs to contend with. But Shahir Berry, the company’s co-founder and CEO, says they are aiming to overcome this challenge.
“This is just the beginning of a long journey,” he insisted. “Today we’re assembling our phones using technology that is imported, but there’s a lot of research and development that’s going on to produce the phone. Now we’re looking at some of the components and accessories to be produced locally.”
At the moment, AfriOne has two smartphones in its brand collection- the Gravity Z1, and the Champion. It also produces the AfriOne 2 in 1 Transformer, a tablet which also works as a laptop when it’s coupled with an accompanying keyboard.
Feature image: eclipsebrandagency.com