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VIDEO: Bam Telecoms envisions being job creation machine

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 18 Aug 2023

Bam Telecoms, a black-owned telecommunications firm, plans to create thousands of jobs in SA, through its phone manufacturing value chain.

Established in 2021, Bam Telecoms is a Johannesburg-headquartered home-grown original equipment manufacturer (OEM). It initially started by developing communication solutions for the private and public sectors, and has since evolved to focus on manufacturing and assembling devices for Africa.

The company says its vision is to bridge Africa’s technological challenges by providing end-to-end, focused, affordable solutions and devices to the continent at a fraction of the price.

Update:

Since publication of this article, Bam Telecoms has clarified the information it originally supplied to ITWeb, issuing a statement providing updated information. Click here to see the full statement.

It plans to shake-up SA’s tightly-contested mobile device market when it launches its locally-manufactured smartphone range at the end of September.

In a video interview with ITWeb, Bam Telecoms founder and CEO Manelisi Bam explained that job creation is at the pinnacle of the company’s business strategy.

It aims to become a job creation machine through its value chain, which entails the mobile phone production and assembling vertical, retail distribution partnerships, informal merchant distribution channels and digital hubs to be established across SA’s townships.

Bam’s midrange phones: Infinity Max and Digit Next.
Bam’s midrange phones: Infinity Max and Digit Next.

Bam Telecoms devices will be manufactured at two smartphone manufacturing factories locally: one in the East London Industrial Development Zone, in the Eastern Cape, and the other at the Dube Trade Port in KwaZulu-Natal.

The company has a partnership with the current owners of the KwaZulu-Natal-based factory, which was formerly owned by Mara Phones South Africa.

Mara Phones was billed as the country’s first smartphone factory, but has since shut its doors. Its assets were sold to the current owners in an auction.

“We're looking at doing a number of things with the factory. We plan to initially employ less than 300 staff in the Dube Trade Port factory. We want former staff of that factory, who are currently out of that environment, to be utilising that space. We want to bring business into that environment so that it grows – to make it something that's sustainable.

“Once we have trained them, we will start with the assembly line. From there, we'll move straight into the SMT (surface mount technology) line, which is what we term the manufacturing part. It means that we need to drive that facility into a commercialised entity,” explained Bam.

Manelisi Bam, CEO and founder of Bam Telecoms.
Manelisi Bam, CEO and founder of Bam Telecoms.

Bam Telecoms is registered as an official OEM at National Treasury for manufacturing of mobile devices, tablets, laptops, routers and UPS solutions.

The company collaborates with the East London Industrial Development Zone, which owns the second factory at which the smart devices will be manufactured.

Job creation plans around the East London-based facility will be similar to the KwaZulu-Natal one, although this factory has been furnished with the latest and more advanced mobile phone manufacturing machinery, he added.

While the factories and interior machinery have been set up, operations will only officially begin next month, and the company is currently assembling its devices in China.

Bam Telecoms also wants to expand its head office team of employees, which is presently at less than 100.

The new telco’s entrance into the South African market comes amid an influx of smartphone manufacturers in recent years, including Vivo, Tecno, Oppo and Mara Group.

It has a range of phones and tablets, including two flagship devices: the Bam 4G Energy smart feature phone and Bam Infinity Max, a mid-range device that offers premium features, such as dual camera, face recognition and camera sensor fast-charging batteries, at an affordable price.

Training technicians

Discussing the company’s vision to empower SA’s youth by providing job creation opportunities, Bam points out the company is looking to train over 30 000 youth in the medium- to long-term, through its cellphone repair programme.

“We know there are over 99 million devices in this country outside of the warranty repair business. This is an estimated R8 billion that is controlled by foreign national-owned informal merchants that specialise in these repair services.

“We have established a partnership with the Vaal University of Technology to create a training element that is split between two things. The first is ‘new venture creation’ – an entrepreneurship programme to teach our youth and young adults how to efficiently run a business. The second part is the mobile repair programme, where we create a pipeline of technicians who will repair mobile phones.”

As part of the cellphone repair programme, the company is setting up 1 700 youth-run digital hubs across SA’s townships, which will serve as distribution channels and cellphone repair centres.

“We want these young people to be able to use new phone components in the repairing process and be able to do things like fix LCD screens at competitive prices.

“We know that when we start manufacturing these components locally within the country, it will change the paradigm and create a shift in the pricing model,” he concludes.

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