Egypt has launched its first locally-built smartphone with China’s help

Smartphone use has risen rapidly among young Egyptians
Smartphone use has risen rapidly among young Egyptians
Image: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
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Last week, in a lavish ceremony President Abdel Fattah El Sisi was handed the first locally made smartphone called Nile X, which is designed for the Egyptian consumer.

In his push for investment in the technology sector, Sisi’s administration has supported an Egyptian Silicon Valley in Assiut, deep in the country’s impoverished southern region, to jump start local manufacturing.

SICO, the Egyptian firm behind the 4G enabled smartphone, has been eyeing a growing consumer base of tech savvy Egyptians. With a population of over 95 million, mobile phone subscriptions topped 99 million. Only 32% of Egyptians though have smartphone making it a burgeoning market that the firm would like capitalize on through affordable handsets.

“We want a revolution in the electronics game in the region”, said Mohamed Abel Azim, SICO’s marketing manager. “We have the capacity to push over 1.8 million units in the first few couple weeks since launching”  He said about 55% of the handset is assembled in its factory in Assiut and the rest is manufactured in China.

Nile X, the Android phone with 4GB ram and a nifty 13-megapixel camera, will retail for about $112. Other products will range from around 200 Egyptian pounds ($11) for a basic smartphone to 4200 Egyptian pounds ($235) for tablets and will be available to Egyptian consumers on Dec. 15.

The Egyptian Ministry of Information & Communications Technology invested around 400 million Egyptian pounds ($22.4 million) in the project.

Smartphone use has risen steadily in Egypt as more people go online via their handheld devices.

Sisi’s administration has embarked on grand national projects in recent years such as the expansion of the 

Suez Canal

 and the construction of a 

new administrative capital

. The assembly of the local smartphone, of which most components are manufactured in Egypt,

also fits in a pattern to showcase an active Egyptian economy, one that can continue to lure foreign investors especially Chinese investment.

Abdelazim did not provide any concrete figures for the Chinese company’s investment but said they supported the venture technologically.

China is heavily investing in building Egypt’s new administrative capital and is expected to pump over $8 billion into the still recovering economy.

“We used to manufacture solely in China and have worked with tech firms such as Google, Qualcom, Intel and HP. What we are looking to do is to assemble the motherboards and electronic circuits in our newly built factory”, Abdelazim added.

SICO is looking to expand in Africa with plans to build an East African regional hub in Nairobi and to expand to Mozambique, Nigeria and South Africa. Egypt has a rapidly growing startup ecosystem with fundraising for nascent firms jumping to around 105% last year alone.

“There are strong opportunities for Egypt to be a leading production centre of affordable smartphones in Africa and we want to be part of that change”, he said.