[VENTURES AFRICA] — Congolese gadget manufacturer, VMK, has began selling Elikia, Africa’s first home-grown designed smartphone, in Congo, in what has garnered international attention.
The increase of consumer purchase, and the need to close the technological gap in Africa has driven an influx of tech giants including RIM, Huawei, Techno, and Apple, into the continent.
In 2009, VMK committed itself to giving Africans affordable access to technology in the mobile business where Africa is said to be comparatively behind.
Elikia, which means ‘hope’ in the local Lingala language, is priced at 85,000 FCFA ($171) by two major telecom operators in Congo – Airtel and Warid, and has a 650 MHz processor, running gingerbread 2.3.6 with 128 MB of on-board storage.
iPhone 4, an older Apple smartphone model, costs around $450 on the continent, though the device comes with enhanced features.
According to VMK, it would launch a $50 tablet for students mid next year, in the continuous bid to provide affordable mobile technology to Africans.
Verone Mankou, the start-up’s founder, says he plans to make a dominant share of the African market use the Africa-designed smartphone and tablet VMK is producing, so that the company can be to Africa what Apple is to the U.S. and Samsung is to Asia.
The start-up’s mission however, is a long haul. For instance, Nigeria, one of the largest smartphone markets in Africa, is a 4 million smartphone market volume, with over 50 percent dominated by Canadian manufacturer, Research in Motion (RIM).
VMK’s first product is the Galaxy tab-sized tablet called Way-C, meaning ‘the light of the stars.’ It now sells for $300.
Elikia can also be bought within the confines of the French Institute of Congo (IFC). Other regions in Congo will follow suit in the coming days.
By January 2013, the pan-African company will begin international marketing for the device.