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Uganda Launches first Laptop and Smartphone manufacturing plant to supply its market

Uganda’s first smartphone and laptops manufacturing and assembly plant was launched on Friday 22nd November 2019 by President Museveni. At full capacity, the factory will produce 2000 feature phones, 1500 smartphones, 800 laptops, 2000 chargers, 4000 USB cables and 4000 sets of earphones. It will also provide 400 direct employment. The plant is located in Kampala and is by Chinese firm Engo and the products will be branded SIMI.

The president praised the Chinese for their business ventures in Uganda and Africa which according to him has improved Uganda’s GDP growth. The president further highlighted his intentions for the country saying that electricity is now being adequately provided and he is working on reducing transport costs and improving the ICT of the country all of which will help in ease of doing business.

According to the State Minister for Investment and Privatization, Evelyn Anite, the country will save foreign exchange and reduce import bills by manufacturing the phones locally. She further urged Ugandans to patronize their own locally produced phones to improve the country’s economic development. The ICT Minister Mr Frank Tumwebaze said that the smartphones produced locally will be affordable making it easier for Ugandans to go online.

Uganda follows Rwanda in Smartphone manufacturing

Last month, Rwanda launched Africa’s first smartphone manufacturing plant. Uganda has now followed in the footsteps of Rwanda. This is a positive step in the right direction. With the setting up of a local smartphone and laptop manufacturing plant, Uganda will gain a lot. Firstly, local competencies and skills transfer will be enhanced. Ugandans will ow learn the manufacturing process that goes in the production of laptop and mobile phones. This is very important as spin-offs companies can be created that could specialize in the manufacturing of separate components. Furthermore, the technology ecosystem of the country will be improved by having this manufacturing plant. Secondly, the economy of Uganda will benefit a lot. The company will employ more than 400 people. In addition, the government gains revenue through the taxes paid by the company. The entire value chain involved in setting up a high-tech manufacturing plant will provide lots of indirect employment too.

China-Africa relations going another step up

Chinese companies are now setting up high tech companies in Africa. Last month, Nigeria started constructing West Africa’s first rail wagon manufacturing plant with the help of the Chinese. China’s mobile phone company Tecno also has an assembly plant in Ethiopia.

African governments should now make sure that local content in the manufacturing contracts with Chinese companies go up. This would further develop local competencies and skills transfer. In addition, by using more local content in manufacturing, the economy grows significantly at the same time providing massive employment.

Indeed this manufacturing plant is a step in the right direction, kudos to President Museveni.

Should other African countries follow in this step? Share your thoughts below.

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Nigeria has started constructing Africa’s first specialized Transport University to develop local railway, road and other transport sector expertise.

President Buhari during the launching ceremony

Africa’s first specialised Transport University is being built at a 413ha site in Daura, Katsina State. According to President Buhari, the purpose of the university is to elevate the transport sector of Nigeria especially in the construction of rail-lines, roads and other transport-related services. President Buhari is on a mission to lift at least 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years. A key part of the aspirations is the establishment of local industries to create jobs. The building of this transport university is thus a step in the right direction.

The construction of the university will last for 18 months at a cost of $50m. The university is being constructed in collaboration with China Civil engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) who will bore the cost as part of its corporate social responsibility.

Benefits of the transport university

This university will provide huge benefits to Nigeria and Africa as a whole. This university will bridge the skills and technological gap that Nigeria currently grapple with. It will enable the transfer of skills from the Chinese who are widely renowned as the global leaders in railway and road construction.

Students from other African countries can also be enrolled to benefit the transport sectors of their countries. A large number of jobs will also be created consequently reducing unemployment. As a result, with time all the transport needs of Africa will be built and operated by Africans.

Expand to other transport sectors

While the concentration on railway and road transportation is a step in the right direction, the university should not just stop there. Departments that specialise in air and sea transport should also be launched. This will pave the way for the emergence of a robust sea and air industry. The future should be “made in Nigeria/Africa ships and airplanes”.

Research and Development for innovation

Any industry that does not innovate will stagnate and subsequently will be consumed by competitors with time. Hence the university should be accompanied by strong research and development centers. It is through these research centers that Nigerians can develop their own customised road, rail, sea and air transport. Innovation centers will develop the absorptive capacity needed to import technologies from outside and customise them to local conditions. Hence it is paramount that the university builds strong transport research centers.

China- Africa relations continue to flourish.

This collaboration with china follows last month’s CCECC’s construction of west africa’s first wagon manufacturing plant. China has proven beyond doubt that it is ready to partner with Africa towards fulfilling the continent’s industrialisation agenda. In September, 60 Nigerian engineers departed for China to study transformer manufacturing. Nigeria is constructing transformer manufacturing plants to supply its dilapidated power grids.

Other African countries should follow in Nigeria’s footsteps and identify the key competitive advantages that they lack skills in. They can then partner with china to develop their local expertise in order to develop their countries.

The onus remains on African countries to identify key areas and partner with China. Nigeria is definitely taking full advantage of this opportunity.

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African Leadership University, founded by Ghanaian entrepreneur Fred Swaniker, has been named among the top 50 most innovative companies in the world together with the likes of Apple, Mozilla and Alibaba.

Graduates with President Kagame (center) and Fred Swaniker (right)

Ghanaian entrepreneur Fred Swaniker founded the African leadership university’s (ALU) first campus in 2015 in Mauritius. He then opened ALU’s second campus in Kigali, Rwanda in 2017. The mission of the ALU is to teach leadership skills to Africa’s youth who will serve as the future leaders of the continent.  The ALU education model is very innovative and follows a non-traditional curriculum. In ALU, students pursue challenges to solve real-world problems, with the program lasting between three to four years.

They also utilise online and peer-to per teaching which helps bring tuition to as low as $4000 per year. Another available option is free tuition which will be paid after graduation by deducting 10% of earnings for 5 to 10 years once the graduate starts working. No wonder it was named among the 50 most innovative companies in the world by fast company. Currently, there are 1200 students enrolled in ALU and Fred is looking to further expand into other African countries such as Nigeria, South Africa and Botswana.

Differences between ALU and conventional universities

ALU does not have faculties with professors lecturing the classes. First-year students at ALU have to do an 8 months program based on critical skills of the 21st century. This program includes skills development in critical thinking, leadership, communication, and data analysis. After finishing their first year, students then choose challenges and opportunities in healthcare, governance, urbanization and other critical areas that will impact Africa positively.

Afterwards, students proceed to pick online courses that match their choices. Similar to internships, they go into the real world and interview professionals, create prototypes, perform experiments, perform research and finally write their dissertations. Students also work on group projects to foster team building and group learning.

About African Leadership X (ALX) accelerators

The ALU model was a rapid success. Students immediately after finishing their first year and starting their internships were offered full-time jobs. Based on this success, ALX was born. ALX is basically offering the first-year curriculum as a stand-alone. ALX accelerators are coworking spaces and were rolled out last year in Kenya to degree holders who lack employable skills. The course usually lasts for six months and the first class has 200 students.

Fred is proof that African problems require African solutions

Fred must be commended for being a visionary, bold and innovative leader. He understood that for Africa to reach her potential, good leaders are a must to steer the continent in the right direction. But he is not only stopping at teaching leadership skills, he is also teaching other practical skills needed for the workplace. Africa has millions of jobless university graduates. Although there are shortages of jobs, a good chunk of graduates do not have the right skills to enter the labour market.

By recognising those challenges, Fred has come out with an innovative and much cheaper way of democratising job skills to African youths. By utilising only co-working spaces, brick and mortar universities are not required. Employing professors and Ph.D. holders to run different faculties are also not needed. Hence, this disruption can bring affordable education to millions across the continent.

Hubs should be the future universities for Africa

African universities have not really achieved the most vital mission of a university which is to impact society. Each year, thousands of Africans graduate from universities across the continent. But only a fraction of this proportion get employment. Even for those employed, a good chunk are under-employed, working in unrelated fields they studied.

Hubs across the continent will solve these crises in several ways. Firstly, the tech hubs across Africa are the first proof that hubs can solve Africa’s education and employment problems. Tech hubs have been sprouting all over the continent within the last four years providing financial solutions, agriculture, health and other important areas of development.

They have provided thousands of training and jobs. Secondly, building tech hubs are much less expensive than universities. They don’t require huge expenditure to set up buildings, recruit professors and all the equipment needed for the different faculties. This will make practical education affordable. This also means that education can be extended to smaller towns as hubs do not require huge infrastructure to set-up.

Hubs for innovating through African challenges

I strongly believe that hubs that specialise in different sectors of the economy should be set-up. For instance, Agricultural hubs can be created which will provide practical skills on all the agricultural best practices. Industrial hubs for teaching manufacturing skills. Architecture and civil engineering hubs to train our youth on all the methods required to build bridges, roads, dams etc. Biomedical hubs for research into diseases and their cures. This will be the only way that Africans will solve the challenges facing our continent.

Fred, has started with a hub that trains youths soft skills needed for the workplace. Hopefully, other African entrepreneurs can follow suit and set-up hubs for the various disciplines such as those mentioned above. Disruptive innovation by African entrepreneurs will be the only way to create millions of jobs for the continent’s teeming youth. Africa is the leader in fintech even though the mobile phone was not pioneered in Africa. Africa can also innovate and provide African solutions to Africa’s problems in all other areas of human endeavours.