BD Insider, Letter 137: Pres. Ruto boasts $40 smartphone

80% of Kenyans can't afford a 5G-enabled smartphone

BD Insider, Letter 137: Pres. Ruto boasts $40 smartphone

In Letter 137, we examine:

  • Kenya's plan to manufacture smartphones
  • how Cellulant's payment systems operator licence will enable Uganda
  • Nigeria's Edo state launches digital residency cards

and other noteworthy information like:

  • the latest African Tech Startup Deals
  • opportunities, interesting reads and more

The Big Three!

Kenya wants to manufacture "the cheapest smartphone in Africa" by 2023

The news: Last Thursday, Kenya's President, William Ruto disclosed that his administration in partnership with telecommunication companies in the country are working on what he describes as "the cheapest smartphone in Africa".

According to Ruto, these smartphones will cost less than $42 (KSh 5000). "It will be a smartphone that can do everything you want," he added.

William Ruto on why Kenya wants to manufacture Africa's cheapest smartphones
For context, the average price of a good 5G-enabled phone in Kenya is around $330, out of reach for more than 80% of Kenya's 54 million population amidst the country's economical challenges.

Why it matters: "The real last mile in technology is the gadgets," Ruto said. One out of every two Kenyans owns a smartphone—Kenya is the third African country with the highest number of smartphone connections at 52 million, behind Nigeria and South Africa, according to GSMA rankings.

These "manufactured in Kenya" smartphones will ensure that all Kenyans can access digital platforms for business and accessing government services. "We have about 15% of government services on the digital platform. We plan to move 90% of all government services to the digital platform. Within six to 19 months, we will have moved 80% of all services onto the digital platform and ensure that [Kenyans] can access government services from the comfort of their home," President Ruto added.

Zoom out: Although there are a few Original Equipment Manufacturers who claim to be running with the "made in Africa smartphones by Africans for Africans" narrative, a 2019 investigation by revealed that most of these smartphones are not available in stores within the continent.

In South Africa, two years after building the country's first smartphone manufacturing facility, Mara Phones shut down its operations in February 2022. However, the company was later acquired by Lebashe Investment Group in July 2022.

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Cellulant gets Ugandan payment license

The news: Bank of Uganda (BoU) has licensed Cellulant as a Payments Systems Operator (PSO) for Large Funds Transfers in line with the National Payments System Act, 2020. The Act provides guidance in streamlining operators in the Ugandan fintech ecosystem.

A payment system operator license applies to the e-fund transfer, clearing, settlement, and third-party systems such as aggregators, integrators, or payment gateways.

Why it matters: The fintech says it has an 80% market share in providing payment solutions for all airlines in Africa including Emirates, Kenya Airways, Jambojet, and Ethiopian Airlines. The company facilitates more than 300 million transactions per year with volumes in billions of dollars.

According to Frances Diribe, Cellulant's Chief Risk & Compliance Officer, "Uganda currently has over 800,000 registered businesses and a fast-growing digital youthful population. We're on course to double down our work in offering these businesses and their clients' dependable payment options. By streamlining the business payment process, they can concentrate on growing themselves."

Zoom out: Cellulant launched operations in Uganda in 2009 and through its single API payments gateway—Tingg, which enables global, regional and local businesses to collect payments online and offline serving its customers with locally relevant payment methods, including mobile money, cards and banks.

Prior to Cellulant's licensing, BoU has licensed other African fintechs—including; Interswitch, Pesapal, Yo-Uganda and Xente.

Recall that in letter 136, we told you that MFS Africa obtained three licenses including a PSO license.

Nigeria's Edo state launches Residency Card

The news: Edo state government in Nigeria has launched its residency identification card system to verify residents in the state with a target to issue one million cards to residents before the fourth quarter of 2024. The state ID card is linked with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) scheme.

"The card has been designed in partnership with some of our financial partners. It has electronic wallets to enable people to use them for financial transactions," Godwin Obaseki, Edo State Governor, said.

Why it matters: "This card will help us plan effectively for the development, growth and progress of the state," he said. "The policy is that you may not be able to interact with government services in Edo State without the residency card. No child will be accepted in our schools if we don't know their parents; they all have to be registered as residents."

The Governor also clarified that the move is not intended to send visitors away from the state, but to ensure that whoever resides within the territory of the state is properly identified and easily traced if the need arises.

Zoom out: In June 2022, the Lagos State Government launched a similar initiative—an upgraded smart and multi-purpose resident identification card to help address the issues surrounding the identification and traceability of Lagos residents.

🧩 BD Trivia: AWS Academy in Nigeria

How well do you know the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Academy partner institutions in Nigeria?

💰 State of funding in Africa

Egypt-based logistics startup, Yassir's $150 million Series B was the largest of the five funding rounds that we tracked last week. With this investment, the company has raised $193 million since it was founded in 2017.

Find more details about the funds that were raised last week in the table below.

African startup deals from November 7 - November 13, 2022.

Get free access to our carefully-curated, real-time updated Funding Database for 2022.

📚 Noteworthy

Here are other important stories in the media:

💼 Opportunities


Every week, we carefully curate open opportunities in Product & Design, Data & Engineering, and Admin & Growth.

Product & Design

Data & Engineering

Admin & Growth

Other opportunities

  • For Nigerian tech startups: The Zenith Bank Pitching Competition officially launches its open call for entrepreneurs in Nigeria with tech-enabled, scalable solutions designed to innovate businesses from different industries.
  • For blockchain enthusiasts in Nigeria: NITDA in partnership with Domineum has launched the NITDA Blockchain Scholarship programme that will train 30,000 Nigerians to become blockchain developers.
  • For young Africans: Applications are open for the Binance Charity Tech Scholarship, the programme aims to educate over 53,000 Africans with various skills including data science, UX/UI science, product management and software development.

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