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For the first time since its existence, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is about to open a mobile c unit, reports from the capital Kinshasa said on Thursday.

The announcement was made by Africell and Industry Five, two companies that have partnered to launch a pilot project that is set to produce up to 30 000 of Africell’s proprietary feature phone handsets at a specialised Industry Five facility in Kinshasa from January 2022.

After an initial ‘shakeout’ phase, production will increase and up to 500 000 Afriphone handsets could be assembled in the following twelve months, the partners said. The production process is expected to be extended in the future to Lubumbashi, Goma, or Bandundu, with the opening of more production units in these cities.

Industry Five said its factory in Kinshasa would be equipped with award-winning modular and mobile workstations. Highly trained local technicians will assemble Afriphone devices on site, assisted by state-of-the art collaborative robots. Performance testing and quality checks will also occur at the facility.

Milad Khairallah, CEO of Africell DRC, which is part of US-owned Africell group, said by assembling consumer mobile technology here in DRC, Africell hopes to energise the local supply chain, mitigate the supply risks inherent in a highly globalised industry.

Africell also aims to direct more of the benefits of booming mobile usage back into DRC’s economy, Khairallah added.

Industry Five Chairman, JP Folsgaard-Bak, believes assembling Afriphones locally is a big step forward in the development of the DRC’s telecommunications sector.

 “This initiative challenges a common view that the only viable way to get mobile phones into the hands of African consumers is to import them box-ready”, Folsgaard-Bak said in a statement.

“Instead, we are investing in the workforce and facilities that will bring a key section of the supply chain onto African soil."

"The advantages include the creation of jobs, more competitive pricing, and a mobile sector in the DRC that is better able to withstand global supply shocks”. The company said it expects to generate up to 5 000 skilled technical jobs in DRC within five years.

The decision to assemble Afriphones in DRC reflects a broader commitment by both Africell and Industry Five to develop the regional market. In 2021, Africell undertook a record-breaking network expansion in the country, extending infrastructure and launching telecommunications services in several new provinces.

Meanwhile, Industry Five’s facilities in DRC are expected to produce a growing range of technology devices, including tablets, laptops, high performance servers, and data storage solutions. 

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