SA's Yekani ready to compete with Apple, Huawei, Samsung in tech world
South Africa, and all other African countries, have been dark horses in technology, importing useful day-to-day gadgets from abroad.
However, a local company, Yekani Manufacturing, is ready to claim the country and continent’s rightful place in international standards in technology.
The company launched its R1-billion factory, covering 28000m², in East London, where it is producing tablets, laptops and smartphones.
“This is the only factory of its size in Africa with the kind of technology we’ve deployed. We are able to manufacture any technology or electronics,” said the company’s group chief executive, Dr Siphiwe Cele.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has placed inclusive growth, transformation and job creation at the centre of the government’s agenda and the Yekani boss said they were heeding that call.
Of its 456 employees, 90% of the company's workforce is black females averaging age 25.
As the country moves to transform learning and teaching through technology, Cele said they had the capacity to make devices such as tablets an everyday part of South African classrooms.
In fact, the company turned manufacturer of education tablets used by schools in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
“These are aligned with their curriculum requirements.
"We load a full curriculum on the tablet without it crushing. It is also water resistant and when one drops it, for a distance of 1.4metres it doesn’t break,” he said.
Cele added that with the support of government they could play a role as job creators and contributors to GDP and tax income of the country.
“If government’s intention is to create jobs, it’s important to support local businesses like Yekani instead of importing things that we can manufacture locally,” he said.
According to Cele, the company can produce 400000 tablets a month, which could potentially create 50 additional jobs.
“We could potentially create 1800 more jobs. The factory exists and it has state-of-the-art equipment.”
Cele was aware that the country’s switch from analogue to Digital Terrestrial Television technology had been on the back foot for years, plagued by controversies that have further bogged down the process.
In 2015, a R4.3bn tender was awar- ded to 26 firms to produce the set-top-boxes (STBs) for digital migration.
Cele added that Yekani had the capacity to manufacture 200 000 STBs per month.
The group laid off 50 people recently because there were no orders.
“It’s important for government to understand they can’t win the war against unemployment alone and we are ready to play our part as business,” he said.
Yekani has previously made Samsung TV sets and PVR decoders for MultiChoice.