Further expansion of China into African infrastructure (this is part of an info dump into the blog).
Akwa Ibom, Chinese firms in ultra low cost handset deals
By Sonny Aragba-Akpore
There are possibilities that Nigeria will become the first country in Africa to experience local manufacture of ultra low cost handset judging by initiatives already put in place by the Federal Government, the Akwa Ibom State government and some Chinese equipment manufacturers.
By different memoranda of understandings signed among the Federal Government and
ZTE of China on one hand and the Akwa Ibom State government with China
Electronics Corporation and China Jinshilin Techno, Nigeria thus becomes one of
the first countries among others to benefit from the Emerging Market Handset
(EMH) Initiative of the GSM Association.
GSM Association Chairman, Mr. Craig Ehrlich and CEO, Mr. Rob Conway should be feeling triumphant now as the initiative which began in 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, February last year with Motorola carting away the EMH ultra low cost handset franchise is beginning to yield fruits outside the Motorola monopoly.
In Barcelona, Spain also in February this year, GSM Association re-endorsed Motorola ?113 and ?113A for distribution to emerging markets.
This initiative, according to Conway is aimed at connecting the next one billion mobile subscribers especially in the unconnected and uncovered parts of the world particularly Africa and the third world.
The Chinese companies will manufacture their own brands locally and sell to the telephone starNed Nigerians.
ZTE has its plant in Abuja under a private public participation (PPP) basis.
While China Electronics Corporation and China Jinshilin Techno will locate their plants at the Akwa Ibom Science Park managed by Ibom Science Park Company Limited.
The three local handset plants will augment the GSM Association initiative through the production of ultra low cost handsets.
GSM Association is an industry global trade group representing more than 680 GSM mobile phone operators across 213 countries and has over 150 manufacturers and suppliers as supporters.
When he gave a keynote address in Abuja at the opening session of GSM Africa, Communications Minister, Chief Cornelius Adebayo bemoaned the high cost of handsets. He added that he was glad to note the appreciable efforts of GSM Association in the promotion of Emerging Markets Handset (EMH) especially the new ultra low cost handset to connect poor and low-income customers.
More manufacturing industries for low cost handsets should be established in the Africa region to reduce cost of purchase and to benefit from employment opportunities in the industry.
He also said, we here in Nigeria will soon begin to produce locally made handsets as a Chinese company, ZTE is working round the clock to commission the factory in Abuja hopefully before the end of the year."
The minister said further that mobile phone cost to the customer and its payment scheme needed to change in a way to address the problems of low-income end users.
"Tariff reduction is fundamental to encouraging consumption, market promotions,
discounts and special offers."
Akwa Ibom State Science and Technology Commissioner, Dr. Linus Asuquo who signed the MOU with Zhang Zuoping of China Jinshilin Techno and Min Sheng Ni of China Electronics Corporation, Shanghai explained that the two plants to be located at the Ibom Science Park, Uyo were expected to attract value to its shareholders.
Asuquo said excitedly that the handset manufacturing should flag-off in six months making Akwa Ibom the first state to actualise such moves.
He cited the state Governor's Victor Attah's vision for a truly science park "for the reality of what we are seeing today."
Attah was quoted as saying that petroleum wealth was limited since petroleum resources were depletable, knowledge wealth on the other hand is limitless since knowledge is non-depletable.
The governor was also quoted as explaining that Asian Tigers, Silicon Valley (USA) and Bangalore, India all created unlimited knowledge and by implication limitless wealth.
According to Attah, "the path of sustainable limitless wealth creation based on knowledge is what we have enthusiastically chosen in Akwa Ibom. We will follow this path with vigour and tenacity of purpose and the Ibom Science and Technology Park is a veritable platform for sustainable creation and utilisation of knowledge.
Information Technology Consultant to the Akwa Ibom State government, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem congratulated the government "for his vision, courage and patriotism in embarking on the Ibom Science Part Project." He said: "the state is wisely investing the little and exhaustible petroleum cash of today in boundless and sustainable wealth of knowledge and creativity for our people at
home and abroad as well as generations yet unborn."
Ekuwem, who is also executive vice chairman of Teledom International said that the Ibom Science Park project was knowledge based savings for the rainy day, "that is why Telecom Group is gearing up to be in the park and partner with other global knowledge workers to create Africa's Silicom Valley or Bangalore."
The Chinese investors who later under took inspection of the park lauded the efforts of the state government to improve technology base of Akwa Ibom and gave an assurance that with relevant structures in place, "cell phones would be assembled in the state within the stipulated time."
Asuquo thanked the investors for creating ideas, which were aimed at the technological development of the state.
He commended the governor for the science park initiative saying apart from the foresight of the governor that was the first of such parks in the whole of Africa.
The commissioner added that the state government was in high talks with relevant agencies to make Ibom Science Park a free trade zone where all components imported for the development of the part would be tax-free.
He canvassed the co-operation of the Akwa State people with the companies for the realisation of the objective of the park.
Cisco System with a network academy for the advancement of technology education was one of the new tenants recently signed on at the park.
V-Net Nigeria, (Vmobile) Omatek Computers, Teledom Group were among the others signed on at the park as tenants.