The Ugandan Government has reached a memorandum of understanding with CTI Africa, a US company, that will allow the country start assembling smart mobile phones.
Announcing the deal at the National Enterprises Corporation (NEC) offices in Bugolobi, Kampala on Wednesday, the Minister of State for Investment and Privatisation, Ms Evelyn Anite, said CTI Africa will help Uganda save money on importing smart phones.
“We are very excited that CTI Africa is going to start assembling mobile phones in Uganda. Ugandans are carrying so many mobile phones but none is manufactured here. So, if Ugandans buy these phones, we will diversify our economy because the dollars that would be spent on importing smart phones will be used here,” Ms Anite said, adding President Museveni will launch the locally manufactured smart phones next year.
Ms Anite said government will protect the locally assembled phones against imported handsets.
“Through the Buy Uganda, Build Uganda policy, we shall put tax barriers for importation of products similar to those produced locally. We have already done that for ceramic tiles and therefore Ugandans need to be patriotic by buying what is manufactured here,” she said.
CTI Africa will operate under its investment branch called Life Mobile. The CTI Africa chief executive officer, Mr Michael Landau, said they have earmarked $10m (about Shs40 billion) into the manufacture of the phones that is expected to produce its first phones between January and March 2019.
Reports indicate China was the biggest source of phone imports in the in the first half of 2018, 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.
South Korea and United States, respectively complete the list five of Uganda’s five biggest source markets for phones.
Other source countries include United Kingdom, Ethiopia, India and South Africa, among others.
In the period under review, Uganda imported phones worth Shs125.7b. This was slightly above the Shs116b that the country imported in the same period last year.
Mr Landau said the phones will help develop specialized applications to improve mobile banking, insurance and education services.
“Our applications will be very important in improving people’s lives. We want LifeMobile to be a lifeline to all the digital services available. This LifeMobile is about using a smart phone as a tool for life as it will have Apps for healthcare, insurance, e-commerce and banking,” Mr Landau said.
Maj Gen James Mugira, the managing director of NEC, said the arrival of LifeMobile is a symbolic moment for Uganda.
“Thank you CTI for choosing Uganda, we will give [you] this initiative to build a smart community [and] all the full support it needs,” Gen Mugira said.