Local device manufacturers get a bite of govt comms tender

Local device manufacturers serving SA’s mobile carriers are set to score a big chunk of the newly-issued multibillion-rand government communications tender.

The tender, which kicked in last week, requires preference to be given to local mobile device manufacturers.

The multibillion-rand RT-15 contract, previously held by Vodacom, was split among MTN, Telkom, Cell C and Vodacom.

The mobile operators will provide telecoms services to government and each company will supply tailored mobile bundles for voice, data and SMS at fair prices to all departments and agencies.

Treasury says the RT15 contract awarded to the four telcos will run until 2026.

Commenting on government’s decision to prioritise locally-manufactured devices, Mara Phones, which has a plant in Durban and is a beneficiary of the RT-15 tender, says the support will have positive ripple effects on the country.

“It is a huge boost to South Africa’s local economy and employment, and it demonstrates government’s and the network operators’ absolute faith in us as South Africa’s flagship smartphone brand. Every South African can be proud that world-class smartphones roll out of our KwaZulu-Natal high-tech electronics manufacturing plant – not simple assembly plant – and we cannot wait to get our devices into the hands of more South Africans,” says Sylvester Taku, MD of Mara Phones SA.

“We are thrilled that our decision to manufacture locally will soon enable Mara Phones to invest even more in growing this awesome local brand and to positively contribute to the unemployment challenge in South Africa.”

Explaining how the tender will work, National Treasury last week said all organs of state can utilise the transversal contract.

Some 450 organs of state participated in the previous contract (RT15-2016). This included 38 national departments, 99 provincial departments, 106 local government departments, and 207 other state institutions.

National Treasury said together with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, it supports the proudly South African campaign and the objectives of the Industrial Policy Action Plan, especially those aimed at promoting the procurement of domestically-produced goods and services.

“As part of continuation of advancing some of the key socio-economic challenges such as job creation, the procurement of local manufactured devices is a first preference on this transversal contract by all organs of state.”

“This is outstanding news, and it comes on the back of the heightened importance of countries investing in their own capacity when it comes to critical goods and services. COVID-19 and the Suez Canal blockage have perfectly demonstrated the fragility of international trade,” says Mara Phones Group CEO Ashish J Thakkar.

“We are looking forward to working with the big four telecoms firms to supply the world’s best, South African-made smart devices to all government departments, agencies and institutions. In particular, we are looking forward to exceeding the expectations of the users themselves. We are thankful to the government of South Africa, National Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry for the opportunity and the justified belief bestowed on our locally-manufactured products.”

In terms of data, the department says: “Uncapped data has become more important in a COVID-19 environment where many more government employees have had to rotate shifts, work virtually and at times for longer hours than previously. The pandemic has shown that data is a crucial mobile service that can allow government to still provide its services in an abnormal environment.”

The new contract is aimed at keeping government’s communications expenses under control and capped mobile spend per civil servant to a maximum of R500/month.

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