Africa has gotten its first computer tablet. Called the Way-C, the tablet went on sale in the Republic of Congo last month.
There has been much excitement about the Way-C. "People want just to touch and then compare it to products that are commercially available. They realize the Way-C offers the same features found in other tablets," says the 26 year-old Way-C inventor Verone Mankou, CEO of VMK. The only difference is the price. The Way-C is two or three times cheaper than others on the market. The choice is clear for users."
The Way-C, which means "the light of the stars" in a dialect of northern Congo, measures 19 x 17 x 1.2 centimetres and weighs 380 grams and has integrated Wi-Fi circuitry and a 4.0 GB memory. According to Mankou, it is equivalent to others currently found on the market, such as Apple's iPad.
"For a long time, I was looking for the best ways to democratize the Internet, without having to go through such "logical" means as PC, Notebooks, etc.," says Mankou. "Africans, though they don’t have great buying power, want a product of the same quality as that available in the West for a very low price. This is where we think that we cannot only be in the game, but own the game. We will propose that products of very good quality at very affordable prices be available. Africa must also provide an alternative technology because the hi-tech market is growing; I would say it is the only market in the world where a four-digit growth is still possible."
Conceived in the Congo and assembled in China, the Way-C was conceived in 2006 and publicly announced in September 2011.The product’s financing of the project, costs more than 80 million CFA francs (around $150,000), mainly provided by VMK.
The Way-C sells for 150,000 CFA francs ($299). For now, the Way-C will be sold exclusively in Airtel Congo stores in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, a private mobile telephone company which is a subsidiary of the Indian group Bharti. Mankou's firm, VMK, inked a deal with Bharti. Eventually, the Way-C will be marketed in 10 West African countries, and in Belgium, France and India.
Mankou has major plans for the Way-C. "Our ambitions do not stop at the shelf, since the Way-C, followed closely by a Smartphone, "RS1" and its launch date announced for May 25... Also, we've thought, since the beginning of the adventure, about one day having an assembly plant here in Congo. This would make our country an exporter of computer products--a first in the region."
If Mankou VMK can make the Way-C in Africa, and export the tablet it could open up a lucrative industry for the Congo. According to IT research firm Gartner, worldwide media tablet sales totaled 63.6 million units in 2011, an increase of 261.4% from 2010 sales of 17.6 million units.