Ruto unveils first phone assembly plant

William Ruto

President William Ruto during the launch the Eadak mobile phone factory in Athi River, Machakos County on October 30, 2023.

Photo credit: PCS

What you need to know:

  • Leading telcos Safaricom, Jamii, Tele1 and ITTCL behind the groundbreaking venture.
  • Eadak said it will introduce the pay-as-you-go model for the phones in January next year.

President William Ruto on Monday launched the East Africa Device Assembly Kenya Limited (Eadak) factory in Athi River, Machakos County, making it the first mobile phone assembly facility in Kenya.

Eadak is a joint venture between local telecommunications operators Safaricom, Jamii Telecom, Chinese phone manufacturer Tele1 and the Industrial Technology Training Company Limited (ITTCL).

The Head of State was taken through a tour of the state-of-the-art facility, which the company says has been built with a capacity to produce up to three million mobile phones annually.

The inaugural devices on show were the 4G-enabled Neon 5 Smarta and Neon 6 Ultra which will be retailing at Sh7,499 and Sh8,999, respectively. Eadak is eyeing expansion of the product line and has planned launches of the new products in the coming months, including a locally assembled tablet.

Eadak said it will introduce the pay-as-you-go model for the phones in January next year. Through the model, customers will pay an upfront fee of Sh1,000 and pay the rest in instalments.

The firm said the low-cost mobile phones will be available for sale countrywide at Safaricom shops and Faiba shops and dealer stores as well as the Masoko e-shopping platform.

President Ruto said the assembly plant will create jobs for hundreds of youths and make it cheaper for Kenyans to buy smartphones. The President said the venture is a fulfilment of his promise to enhance digital access for Kenyans.

“That is the power of the private sector. As government, we are going to play our role to make sure that we have a fiscal and business environment that supports investment,” said Dr Ruto.

He said the government will support the local assembly of mobile phones by being a major buyer of the devices.

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha said her ministry has bought 100,000 locally made phones which are being used by community health workers.

“The provision of affordable digital smart devices is no longer just about mobile telephony and fintech penetration, it is also about universal access to private and public sector goods and services as the driver to national transformation,” said Dr Ruto.

Kenya is a major importer of mobile phones, mainly from China, the US, Vietnam and South Korea. The cost of these devices largely relies on external factors including the cost of chips and the currency exchange rate.

According to the Communications Authority of Kenya, there were 62.9 million mobile phones being used by Kenyans by June 2023, translating to a mobile penetration rate of 124 percent.

This includes 32.1 million feature phones and 30.8 million smart phones. This indicates that the slightly larger share of mobile phones in use in Kenya are feature phones, which are cheaper compared to smart phones but only basic functionality such as making calls, SMS and mobile money transfer services but lack internet access. It is projected that the Athi River factory will create 300 and 500 direct jobs.

“This assembly plant will support the government’s agenda to enhance digital inclusion,” said Eadak chief Joshua Chepkwony.

Demand for mobile devices has, however, been hit by a sharp rise in prices, exacerbated by the depreciation of the Kenyan shilling against the US dollar.

Kenya's smartphone imports fell by 13.5 per cent in the three months to December last year compared to the same quarter in 2021, according to data released by International Data Corporation in March.

“The launch of Eadak reaffirms our belief in the power of connectivity to transform lives and drive economic progress. This partnership underscores our relentless pursuit to expand 4G access, empower Kenyans through affordable, high-quality smartphones and creating employment,” said Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa.