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First Africa-Designed Smartphone

Congolese gadget manufacturer, VMK, has begun selling in Congo, Elikia, Africa’s first home-grown designed smartphone, in what has garnered international attention.

The increase of consumer purchase, and the need to close technological gap on the African continent, has driven an influx of tech giants including RIM, Huawei, Techno, and Apple, into the region, with Africa having no indigenous manufacturer amongst the list.

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,’ and is priced at 85,000 FCFA ($171) by two major telecom operators in Congo – Airtel and Warid, has a 650 MHz processor, running gingerbread 2.3.6 with 126 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 report, VMK said through its twitter account that 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, in Nigeria, one of the largest smartphone market 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…

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