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Mobile phone company eyes African FTA to expand business

Xinhua ,August 19, 2020 Adjust font size:

Eight months after it started production in Uganda, Engo Holding Ltd, a Chinese electronics firm, is making waves across Africa.

Engo started off as an assembler of feature phones and smartphones in Africa, before deciding to be a manufacturer. The company said it has plans to create 500 jobs in Uganda by 2021.

David Beecham Okwere, secretary to the chief executive director of the electronics firm, told Xinhua in a recent interview that besides the domestic market, the company has started exporting phones to other regional markets in Africa via dealerships.

Okwere said the company has positioned itself to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, aimed at accelerating intra-African trade and boosting Africa's trading position in the global market.

The firm exported the first batch of phones to Morocco in May, with the North African country ordering 16,000 pieces every two or three weeks.

According to experts, if all 55 African Union member countries join the AfCFTA, the agreement will become the world's largest free trade zone by the number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion.

"We hope to use that (agreement) as an entry point into the African market. Our vision is to become a giant manufacturing phone company in Africa," Okwere said.

Evelyn Anite, Uganda's minister of state for investment, told Xinhua in a recent interview that the firm was not only contributing to the economic growth and development of the country but it was also helping build local capacity by transferring information and communications technology knowledge and skills.

Chinese privately owned enterprises are following through their country's commitment to help industrialize Africa through the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation framework.

At the Beijing summit of the FOCAC held in 2018, China announced industrialization as one of the eight initiatives that will help Africa fast-track its economic transformation.

Engo has started manufacturing smartphones that have an installed thermometer. According to the company, the new innovation is critical as temperature screenings are now required before entry into a facility during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Okwere said the development of the device took four months, starting in March, with support from the firm's parent company in China.

He said that if the phone passes the approval process, it will be an addition in the efforts to fight the pandemic that continues to spread on the continent.

Uganda's ministry of health said such an innovation is a big boost in the fight against the pandemic.