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Rwanda just released the first smartphone made entirely in Africa (fastcompany.com)
297 points by imartin2k 61 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments

I was in Rwanda this time last year. After visiting ~30 African countries by that point I can say that it's an extremely refreshing change.

There is a bustling tech sector in Kigali - they're making iPhone apps, designing and building hardware, etc. etc. There is a huge community of entrepreneurial younger people. People are extremely well educated, friendly and kind. I never saw a single piece of trash in the entire country.

I felt as safe riding moto taxis around in the dark in Kigali as I do in any Canadian city.

FYI for those unaware, grecy is the guy who recently completed a >50000 mile Africa expedition[1]. This guy knows Africa. It's nice to hear that Rwanda is doing well.

[1] http://theroadchoseme.com

Wow. The coastline of Africa is 18,950 miles (30,500 km), so That’s like looping around the content nearly 3 times.

Here’s what I found on that site:

> I’m doing an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit right now. Come on over to Reddit.com and ask me any question you have about my three year, 54,000 mile and 35 country expedition around Africa.

It’s all on the table – safety, money, health, budget, visas, route, people, animals, the Jeep.


Or he just looped around the coastline once at a tighter resolution than your source of 30,500 km


(Also thanks for the AMA link)

The coastline paradox is cute, but any route using coastal roads will be shorter than any reasonable coastline estimate, for obvious reasons.

Plus the "resolution" of the coast is limited by the size of humans.

The coastline paradox is much more of a measurement problem then a physical one.

Feel free to ask me any question you don't see answered there.

And Yes, I did some zig-zagging! - https://www.instagram.com/p/Bw4h0X_Fq_G/

> This guy knows Africa.

I know it's likely hyperbole, but...JFC. Would you say an East-coaster who hikes part of the Appalachian trail knows Appalachia? At best, their knowledge is surface-level.

That seems like way too high of a bar for the word knows. Someone who plays the guitar for 3 years certainly knows the guitar, even if they're not great at it. Who would you say knows Africa? Someone who lives all their life in Kongo? They might know Kongo, but probably know less about the varied experiences of Africa as a continent than someone who spends 3 years traveling around the whole of Africa.

If he travelled that much, then yeah. It’s just a phrase.

I found his blog on another HN thread a few months blog and binged through it for weeks.

I highly, highly recommend going through all the posts. I had no idea some of these countries and landscapes even existed.

Oh cool, I bought a Wrangler a few years ago and found his instagram when I was browsing around, love his stuff!

Rwanda is known to be up-and-coming and is doing better at solving their problems than South Africa. At least, their derivative at this point in time looks much better.

Cape Town already has a good tech scene and is a great place to move to for programmers, but I would like to see sustained tech progress in SA's other big cities and then places like Rwanda or the eastern African countries.

>Rwanda is known to be up-and-coming and is doing better at solving their problems than South Africa

I mean, South Africa certainly has its problems, that's for sure. But I mean, Rwanda? With its disappeared opposition, assassinated dissidents, and child soldiers securing Tantalum deposits in Congo?

I don't know man? South Africa certainly has its problems, but even under Apartheid, you didn't see them sending child soldiers into neighboring countries. (Not that sending adult soldiers to secure diamond mines is that much better than sending child soldiers to secure tantalum deposits I suppose? But it just seems not as bad to me.)


Yes, so I agree with you on the human right topic but I think for the Rwanda argument to make sense you should restrict to the last five years or so. I feel pretty wary of Kigama, but maybe they will have a smooth transition to the next guy? Of course, in five years from now it is possible that SA again looks better in their rate of immediate progress than Rwanda.

Also how most people are so scared shitless of anything like the genocide happening again (beyond understandable obviously) and thankful to Kagame it hasn't, they don't really seem to mind too much about the terrible shit he pulls, because it so clearly pales compared to "the alternative", however false a dichotomy that might be.

It's done them well, but at some point the mindset will have to change.

>It's done them well

Just hasn't done much for the thousands slaughtered in Congo.

Guy's a murderous turd and the worst kind of genocidal thieving resource warlord. Represents everything Ghana, Senegal, South Africa etc are trying to relegate to history books in Africa. Sooner he's gone, the better for Africa. People won't look at Africa as being quite so barbaric when a certain set of leaders finally die off. Kagame is definitely chief among them.

Those thousands slaughtered in the Congo murdered close just under a million before they fled across the border, so perhaps it isn't so cut and dry.

So, hopefully a country is more than their president?

Question, from a network engineering perspective, what does the ISP scene in Rwanda look like? Who are the ten largest ASes, what exists for an IX point, and where are the bottlenecks for international transit connectivity?

They say they don't do just assembly but I guess they don't make their own chips either so what is the difference vs assembly?

It sounds like they did the design locally and manufactured the boards and case and other such mid-level components. Presumably the highest-end components like displays, processors, and other ICs are imported.

So it's not really manufacturing the entire device locally, but it's a good first step. You gotta take these steps to build local expertise before you can think about building stuff like IC manufacturing that's local in a meaningful way. It sounds like they're on the right track, and I wish them the best.

To be honest, I think China is the only country that can fit the strict definition of "entirely" made in".

So I'm happy enough to give credit to rwanda for assembling the motherboard component by component.

If we’re talking about smartphones, I think South Korea and Taiwan would fit the bill.

Raw materials are sourced in Africa -> Can't say made in cause those materials have to be harvested first

no need to go to country level, they days it's ENTIRELY made in Africa, I think we can all agree they can make entirely phones only in (Eastern) Asia

To make an apple pie from scratch you have to invent the universe.

They "manufacture the phones from the motherboards to the packaging" ... perhaps the case, motherboard, packaging, but still importing the components, in particular the system-on-a-chip and display? In that case, "made entirely" wouldn't be accurate.

Are there even any producers of low-level components & lcd displays outside China, Taiwan, Korea etc?

Wikipedia has a list of chip foundry plants, along with process size and production capacity: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_semiconductor_fabricat...

In addition to the US, there are and several throughout Europe, Russia, and former Soviet countries. Plus many countries throughout Asia.

that list seems to be entirely missing the upstate new york chip fab, which has been around since 2003 or so.


Also missing the ON Semi fab in Rochester that made Kodak's image sensors.

Great list. Also a reminder of why they call it Silicon Valley after all... Maybe Rwanda will push towards researching making their own chipset. ARM is kind of a spec and not some specific processor is how I have understood it. You take the spec and design your own processor from it.

>You take the spec

You have to pay license fees :) but yeah that's the idea. SPARC and MIPS are a bit more open actually.

I missed that bit, and I didn't think about SPARC / MIPS to be fair. Wasn't there another one recently opened up by IBM? Isn't RISC or RISCV? I only focused on ARM because then you can usually take advantage of Android. I do wish there were competing phone OS' though that were open source as well.

Don't forget RISC-V and POWER.

Lol, I don't see any production in Silicon Valley. Most CA production listed is around LA area.

Called it Silicon Valley then, fair enough!

Japan, unless it was not implied by your "etc" :)

There's a 32 nm fab in France (ST Microelectronics) doing a lot of components. I am not sure about the displays though.

The best measure I know of this is -- cost of the final product minus cost of imported inputs, or that divided by cost of final product.

Ultimately what matters is things like how much value is created in the local economy (employment), and how independent they are from loss of their source of imports.

How about Android license? I assume they must be purchasing an Android license from Google in order to use the Play Store etc.

Hardware/electronic design maybe? Often the boards are custom made for each model. But I could be wrong.

That logo looks so nice. I literally want one just for how nice their brand looks. Why can't other electronics brands look that nice?

Not sure what you’re talking about, the Apple logo is pretty great, and has multiple meanings.

Maybe, but it doesn't look good. It's just an apple with a bite taken out of it. It's whitewashed and bland. No character to it.

Yeah, but the white apple is a very sterile presentation, and that might work if the company it represents wasn't so sterile too.

Just as one data point, I personally hate the Apple logo and am heartily sick of seeing it everywhere and I loathe the way they feature it so prominently on their laptop lids so that I do keep seeing it continually.

So yeah, these things are subjective.

It was better before they removed the colors.

The phones look good (at least from the parts pictured). I wonder if they can bring a higher price than Chinese competitors with a design advantage.

IMHO The image looks rendered..

According to the website, you can order one now with a 3-5 day delivery (presumably more if destination is outside of Rwanda).


I just bought one and am promised delivery to the Midwest by 10/15 (~$25 shipping.)

Site must be getting hammered. I can't get it to come up.

After my deep dive into reading about the Zipline Drone company (who first deployed at-scale in Rwanda and now serve virtually the entire country with rapid, fully electric airborne blood and medical product delivery), I learned just how well Rwanda is doing economically. Very vibrant, indeed.

They are led by a paternalistic figure who helped stop the genocide and has high support in the population. It's not as democratic as I would like, and the Rwandan meddling in Congo isn't exactly clean, but trajectory of Rwanda to middle income country status is commendable. I worry about Kagame's admiration for the Chinese model of development, though. I guess an advantage of Africa versus China is the nations are more numerous and so power is more disperse (possible exception: Nigeria by the end of the century). I hope a gradual trajectory toward prosperity for all, freedom, and peace take place on this continent.

He has support because if you voice against him you end up in prison, jail or exile.

I'm not saying he didn't do great things to stop the genocide in 94, but the country is the way it is because he rules with an iron fist.

Do they have modern semiconductor fabrication capabilities at all?

I'm pretty sure they're importing the semiconductors, but manufacturing the PCBs

Made ENTIRELY in Africa except SoC, memory modules, display and pretty much any other component...

Only continent where they make ENTIRELY phones is Asia.

Largely PR, on the ground things are different, Rwanda is like china

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