If Jamaica looks to Haiti, it, too, could produce high-tech tablet computers for the local and export markets, according to Brian Pengelley, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association.
He was responding to a report by the Associated Press last weekend that two rival companies in Haiti had started to produce tablets for the local and export market in that country.
Jamaica’s nearest neighbor to the east is still recovering from its devastating earthquake of 2010, but it is now seeing its small manufacturing sector move up the value chain from simple products such as T-shirts, to one of the world’s most technologically advanced consumer products.
Jamaica can “very easily” follow Haiti’s lead, Pengelley said. “We certainly have the skills and the capabilities here.”
The two Haitian companies are Surtab and Handxcom, which both started production in the latter part of last year.
The Surtab operation was started by a group of investors including Maarten Boute, its chief executive officer and an adviser to regional mobile operator Digicel. Boute was chief executive officer of Digicel Haiti from 2009 to 2012.
The company’s first sale was to Kenya, but one of its most important customers is Digicel, which is the largest mobile operator in Haiti and other areas of the Caribbean.
The company has sold 2,000 of its Haitian-made 3G tablets to Digicel Haiti on a pilot project basis, according to Antonia Graham, head of public relations for the Digicel group.
“These tablets are retailing for 7,000 Haitian gourdes (US$159 or J$16,900) in 53 Digicel locations across Haiti,” Graham told the Financial Gleaner. “Sales are progressing well.”
The tablet is mainly sold to Haiti’s small middle class, as well as to the government’s education and planning ministries. But the product has even made it to Jamaica, though not yet to Digicel’s stores.
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