Egypt’s first smartphone maker plans expansion in Africa

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A worker tests mobile phone features in Assuit, Egypt September 30, 2018. Picture taken September 30, 2018. (Reuters)
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A factory worker holds up a package of Sico mobile phone in Assuit, Egypt September 30, 2018. Picture taken September 30, 2018. (Reuters)
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People work on a production line at the mobile phone factory in Assuit, Egypt September 30, 2018. Picture taken September 30, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 09 October 2018
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Egypt’s first smartphone maker plans expansion in Africa

  • SICO was set up last year with capital of 150 million Egyptian pounds ($8.4 million)
  • In 2019 the company aims to export 40 percent of its production and keep 60 percent local, its sales director says

CAIRO: Egypt’s first smartphone maker is looking to enter the broader African market by the end of 2018 or early 2019 as it seeks to boost exports, its sales director said.
Silicon Industries Corporation (SICO), which already exports to the Gulf, aims to start selling phones in Kenya, Morocco, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Nigeria, Mozambique and Ghana, Sales Director Mahmoud Ali told Reuters.
“It’s a promising market and there’s much less competition than in the Gulf,” Ali said, noting big demand for affordable phones in Africa. He said he mostly expected to sell smartphones in the $50 to $60 price range to African customers outside Egypt.
SICO, which was set up last year with capital of 150 million Egyptian pounds ($8.4 million), sells phones under the brand name Nile X and has said it uses a Chinese design of 3G/4G US technology.
Private investors hold 80 percent of the company and the remaining 20 percent is held by Egypt’s Ministry of Communication.
In 2019 the company aims to export 40 percent of its production and keep 60 percent local, Ali said. It also wants to expand its market share in Egypt from 12 percent to 15 percent in 2019, he said.
He said it was too early to set a sales target for exports to African countries, but he expected to export more to customers in Africa than in the Gulf next year.
“We are still entering the market and talking to people,” he said. “We are working with several operators and hoping that [the phones] will be available at their branches at the end of 2018 or early 2019.”
The company expects to triple its total production from 500,000 units in 2018 to 1.5 million units in 2019, Ahmad el-Sawaf, SICO’s international business development manager said. Of the 1.5 million, 900,000 would be sold in Egypt while 600,000 would be sold abroad, he added.
He said the company targets sales of 400 million pounds this year, tripling to 1.2 billion pounds next year. The target for 2020 is 2.5 billion pounds, he said.
The smartphone maker plans to introduce new phones next year, offering a total of 14 products, he said. SICO currently offers six products, including smartphones and a tablet, he said.


Bahrain to use Huawei in 5G rollout despite US warnings

Updated 41 min 3 sec ago
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Bahrain to use Huawei in 5G rollout despite US warnings

  • Washington has warned countries against using Chinese technology
  • ‘We have no concern at this stage as long as this technology is meeting our standards’

DUBAI: Bahrain plans to roll out a commercial 5G mobile network by June, partly using Huawei technology despite the United States’ concerns the Chinese telecom giant’s equipment could be used for spying.
Washington has warned countries against using Chinese technology, saying Huawei could be used by Beijing to spy on the West. China and Huawei have strongly rejected the allegations.
VIVA Bahrain, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabian state-controlled telecoms firm STC, last month signed an agreement to use Huawei products in its 5G network, one of several Gulf telecoms companies working with the Chinese company.
“We have no concern at this stage as long as this technology is meeting our standards,” Bahrain’s Telecommunications Minister Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed told Reuters on Tuesday when asked about US concerns over Huawei technology.
A senior State Department official said the US routinely urges allies and partners to consider the risks posed by vendors subject to extrajudicial or unchecked compulsion by foreign states.
The US Fifth Fleet uses its base in Bahrain, a Western-allied island state off the Saudi coast, to patrol several important shipping lanes, including near Iran.
Bahrain expects to be one of the first countries to make 5G available nationwide, Mohammed said, although he cautioned it would depend on handset and equipment availability.
Early movers like the United States, China, Japan and South Korea are just starting to roll out their 5G networks, but other regions, such as Europe, are still years away and the first 5G phones are only likely to be released in the second half of this year.
Bahrain’s state-controlled operator Batelco is working with Sweden’s Ericsson on its 5G network, while the country’s third telecoms group Zain Bahrain is yet to announce a technology provider.
No foreign company is restricted by the government from providing equipment for Bahrain’s 5G network, Mohammed said, adding mobile operators choose who they work with.
Australia and New Zealand have stopped operators using Huawei equipment in their networks but the European Union is expected to ignore US calls to ban the Chinese company, instead urging countries to share more data to tackle cybersecurity risks related to 5G networks.
Mohammed said the rollout of the 5G network was an “important milestone” for Bahrain, which is hoping investments in technology will help spur its economy, which was hit hard by a recent drop in oil prices.
“It is something we are proud to have,” he said.