VMK, a new technology company based in Brazzaville, Congo, is set to introduce Africa’s first tablet computer. Way C is the first tablet entirely designed in Africa. The tablet uses Android 2.3, promises 512 MB RAM, 1.2 Ghz processor, 4GB internal memory, and supports wi-fi. The tablet will cost less than £200 and will be distributed in Congo, Senegal, Kenya, Gabon, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, DR Congo and Belgium. Vérone Mankou, VMK’s CEO, answered our questions.
Why did you work on a tablet?
We were looking for solutions to allow many people access the internet. We realized that a tablet was the ideal product. It is easy to carry and it is possible to use it even when power is not readily available. The wireless capability, later on we shall add 3G, allows users to link to a number of providers. These are the reasons that made us choose the tablet.
You speak of an African tablet, yet production is done in China ...
All tablets are produced in China. Ipad is produced in China, Blackberry is produced there. Why do they call them American or Canadians? The Way C is an African tablet; those who do not agree are simply Afro-pessimists. Besides, we are planning to bring production is Africa, it is not impossible.
How did you finance development and production?
This was the hardest part. It took us two years to collect enough funds to research and develop the idea. We are now in the production phase, and we still need financing. We are now discussing with the government to see if they could contribute to the running costs. We are also talking to private investors.
When will the tablet hit the market?
The exact date is not yet established. We have some hitches with the logistic to import the tablets from China and distribute them to outlets in time. In any case, the tablet will be available by November 15.
Do you think the Congolese and other people will be able to buy the tablet?
Yes, we already have a few thousands confirmed bookings. Besides, in Congo, the cheapest tablet is the one produced by Samsung, and it costs more than the double of our product. To many users, our tablet is a real bonanza. If there is the desire and the need to have a tablet, then many will buy the Way C, which is cheaper and designed to work in Africa.
Are you afraid of competition from the mobile communication front?
I shall quote a person who left us recently: Steve Jobs. When he introduced the first iPad he underscored that that product was nor a computer nor a telephone. A tablet can substitute neither. We might have some competition with mobile phones, but it will not be much.
What prompted you to invest in this venture?
I always believed we African cannot remain consumers for ever. We need to become producers. This is the vision that supported me since the beginning. We African should believe more in our potential. Many Africans have done great things. We must continue in this path. Young people should be aware of the difficulties to work, to finance projects. Yet, the most important thing is to believe in your ideas and make a first step towards their realization.
Fortuna Ekutsu Mambulu