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Uganda Breaks Ground for Computer, Phone Manufacturing and Assembly Plant

The government of Uganda is set to start manufacturing and assembling computers following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with a Chinese Firm on Thursday morning, Chimp Corps report,

At the ground breaking ceremony of the SIMI technologies manufacturing plant in Namanve Industrial Park, the State Minister of Finance for Investment and Privatization, Hon. Evelyn Anite said government remained committed to attracting more investors into the country and creating employment opportunities for the youth through ICT.

“The Government of Uganda is on an accelerated path to industrialization. It gives me great Joy whenever we add a new player in the industry and manufacturing sector,” said Anite.

SIMI (Engo) Chief Executive Officer, Ares Zhou, said their target production capacity per year will be three million pieces of mobile phones and one million computers.

He said related smart devices such as electric wire boards, wife routers will as well be produced from the Namanve factory.

Anite (L) arriving at the function in Namanve on Thursday

The Chinese firm is expected to inject $20m (Shs 76bn) in the first phase of constructing the assembly line after which it will progress to the manufacturing stage.

The development comes at a time Ugandans are spending billions of shillings to import smartphones.

In the first half of 2018, Uganda imported phones worth Shs125.7b.

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This was slightly above the Shs116b that the country imported in the same period in 2017.

According to data from Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), Chinese firm Tecno imported about 22 million handsets followed by Itel with 12.5 million and Nokia. Samsung came in at fourth with 7.2 million while Apple came in at a distant sixth with 707,567 handsets.

The samples of electronic gadgets which will be manufactured and assembled from Namanve

China was the biggest source of phone imports in the period under review, bringing in stock worth Shs113.5b. It was followed by Vietnam and United Arab Emirates, which contributed phone imports worth Shs7.6b and Shs173.6m, respectively.

But Ugandan officials now say the situation will most likely change if the manufacturing and assembly plant starts operations.

Anite said the benefits of import substitution and the resultant effect on a country’s balance of payments cannot be overstated, adding, every country has the responsibility to align with this policy in order to promote local industry which is a major factor in pushing Uganda to middle income status.

“Today is special because it demonstrates that Uganda is now a favored destination for investments in high-tech manufacturing and all the advantages, they bring especially in skilling our people. Brace yourselves, we are taking “made in Uganda” to the next level,’” she added.

Government officials and representatives of the Chinese company break ground for the factory

Speaking to officials from SIMI technologies minister Anite said: “We expect you to hire and train local Ugandans to handle the various operations in the manufacture of these products as stipulated in your MoU with NITA-U.”

The Chinese firms have previously been accused of employing their fellow countrymen to do work which can be done by locals here.

Zhou said it was willing to “contribute knowledge and skills to Uganda” as more than 600 hundred workers and 50 engineers will be recruited for the project.

The company said it would use advanced technology to power solar phones.

“The phone battery charges automatically and we have a laptop with a 4G module inside. Such kinds of products satisfy Uganda customers’ demand. And we are willing to transfer new ICT technology to Uganda.”

Tumwebaze speaking at the event

Speaking at the event Minister of ICT and National Guidance Hon Frank Tumwebaze said Uganda is moving in the right direction towards promoting home grown ICT solutions.

“Just last month, through the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance the government of Uganda awarded 60 Innovators under the National ICTs Innovation Support Program (NIISP), a programme that was set up to facilitate the creation of an ICT Innovation ecosystem and Marketplace for Ugandan innovative digital products. With this ceremony here today, we are now moving to tackle the hardware side of the coin,” he observed.

NITA-U executive Director James Saaka said the government institution has developed numerous standards and guidelines which government and private entities must comply to when developing their IT systems.

“We have now moved to develop standards to guide the manufacture of electronics, ICT equipment including computers and related products,” said Saaka.

“It is great progress that we are moving Uganda into this ICT equipment manufacturing space but we must move in tandem with the rest of the world in terms of standards and quality in order to be competitive,” he emphasised,

Observers say local manufacture and assembly of ICT related electronics such as Computers is one way of contributing to the country’s infrastructure, generating employment and tax revenue. The story doesn’t end there however.

Several UIA board members including Morrison Rwakakamba (C) graced the ceremony

In developing economies, the spillover of technology and knowledge to local firms and workers is usually of immeasurable value.

Uganda has been championing the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) policy to build local capacity as a way of promoting and local industry most especially in the manufacture of high-tech goods like ICT related products.

The collaboration between NITA-U and Uganda Investment Authority seeks to promote the manufacture of electronics, ICT equipment including computers and related products in Uganda; building of local capacity in assembling and equipping locals in electronic technology; training of individuals who will work on the manufacturing plant; and overall skills transfer.

 

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