When an April 18, 1963 newspaper article reportedly published by the Mansfield, Ohio New Journal, quoted Frederick Hunstman, telephone company commercial manager, as saying, “Mainfielders will carry their telephones in their pockets. Don’t expect it to be available tomorrow, though. Right now, it’s a laboratory development and it’s workable, allowing the carrier to make and answer calls wherever he may be”, it seemed like some silly joke! Only ten years later, however—on April 3, 1973, to be precise, the first cellular phone was made by Motorola engineer Martin Cooper, in New York! To the rest of the world, sixty years later, a cellular phone is no longer a breathtaking invention.
The first mobile phone service came onto the Ugandan scene in December 1994. The telecom company, Celtel, using the GSM 900 technology mainly targeted high end users like business people and the diplomatic community, but today it has become an-all-time communication companion, the only awing thing being perhaps about how latest is one’s model of a cellular phone! For instance, in the first quarter of 2022, Uganda had (27.67 million) cellular mobile connections—more than half of its population of 49,029,364 million as of December 14, according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS).
Uganda has for a while imported cellular phones mainly from United States of America, China, India, South Korea, Finland, and United Kingdom, but with an ambition to make Uganda the best technologically advanced innovative nation in the [East African] region, and also according to findings from a December 24, 2022 visit to the Mbale based facility by Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza, Minister of Science and Technology—Office of The President, come February 2023, Uganda will become the third East African country—after Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); and fifth in Africa—after South Africa, Nigeria—and the two aforementioned, to make Smart phones! The East African region comprises seven countries—the original three: Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania; plus, [now]: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Rwanda; South Sudan, and Burundi. Ethiopia has also applied to join.
The minister and her team visited a brand-new factory being constructed to manufacture LED flat TV screens, smart MIONE phones and other electronic devices for import substitution.
If all goes as planned, phone manufactured in Uganda will be launched in January 2023—or, thereabout. The Mbale city-based factory in the SINO Industrial Park has a manufacturing line for LED flat TV screens also scheduled to begin just about the same time. Unfortunately, this industrial was recently gutted by fire that left everything: raw materials, machinery, equipment, stored and finished materials in ruins. The investors are, however, so highly resilient that they will neither be deterred nor discouraged by this setback.
If phone manufacturing successfully takes off, it will: save Uganda at least Ug. Shs125 billion ‘lost’ to phone importation annually; and create at least 1000 jobs—directly, or engaged in different processes in the phone Value Chain. Do not forget that there will be exports—in the region and beyond that will definitely bring in revenue and all that may accrue from it.