Mara Phones South Africa to restart operations following an acquisition

Mara Phones, South Africa's first smartphone manufacturing facility has been acquired by Lebashe Investment Group and other investors.

Mara Phones South Africa to restart operations following an acquisition
Slyvester Taku, Mara Phone’s MBO team member

Five months after its closure, Mara Phones, South Africa's first smartphone manufacturing facility has been acquired by Lebashe Investment Group (the owners of Arena Holdings) and other investors. The acquisition will mark a new beginning for the company.

In February, Mara Phones South Africa closed down amidst controversies stating that its "ambitious plans to launch two subsequent facilities in Africa to manufacture Made in Africa devices were untenable in South Africa due to the pandemic and lockdowns that followed only four months after opening".

However, the company was auctioned in a sale mandated by its funders: the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Standard Bank. Following a purchase agreement for the smartphone plant and its assets concluded on 29 June 2022, the entity is now owned by Mara’s buyout team (MBO), Sylvester Taku, its local MD, and Mabuti Radebe, Lebashe Investment Group and an entity called MPSA projects, Business Insider reported.

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The IDC and Standard Bank provided R429 million (~$25 million) in credit facilities as the company's initial finance to Mara Phones. As the project's senior lender, IDC authorized R238 million (~$13 million) in total facilities.

"Through this partnership, as the MBO team we are now able to deliver on the promise we made earlier this year to do everything in our power to save jobs, retain critical skills and keep the world-class manufacturing facilities of Mara Phones South Africa in Durban," the MBO Team’s Sylvester Taku said.

Taku was a crucial figure in developing Mara’s strategy and led its execution. He has 20 years of experience in technology and media and has worked for Deloitte and Ernst and Young.

According to the report, Mara Phones will now focus on reopening the factory, rebranding and establishing a healthy working environment and protecting employees' dignity. Mara Phones workers in South Africa have alleged that the company is owing to their wages. Business Insider previously reported that "the workers who last worked in July 2021 when the factory halted operations, got paid in May 2021 for April and often had to endure late payments".

Until the acquisition, Mara Phones South Africa was part of the global Mara Corporation and domiciled in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. In April 2019, Mara Phones established a smartphone manufacturing unit in Rwanda. The South African facility was launched in October 2019. Despite its closure in South Africa, the Rwandan facility remained operational and has been consistently in production.