Critical Minerals Key to Tanzania’s Digital Transformation

Growing demand for smartphones in the country and the push for digital transformation are increasing demand for domestic smartphone manufacturers.

Digital Transformation

Currently, the country relies 100% on imported smartphones.

Research shows that Tanzania is rich in important minerals such as graphite, lithium, copper and cobalt, which are crucial for smartphone manufacturing.

The presence of these minerals, coupled with political and economic stability, creates a conducive environment for the creation of the smartphone industry, which will play a vital role in digital transformation.

Nominated MP Professor Shukrani Manya recently highlighted the effective use of minerals to support the technological revolution, including the development of indigenous electric vehicles (EVs) and other vital technologies.

He made the comments during a debate on the proposed guidelines for the National Development Plan and Budget for the 2024/2025 financial year at the recently concluded parliamentary session.

Professor Manyia explained that the upcoming national development plan should take advantage of the country’s geographical and environmental advantages to ensure that minerals are considered key raw materials for technology-intensive industries that attract large-scale investors.

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He called for a change of mindset from exporting minerals to building necessary technological industries using these minerals as raw materials. He believes that this new thinking will ensure employment opportunities and accelerate revenue generation for the country.

Reacting to Professor Manya’s statement, scientists and analysts are optimistic about Tanzania’s potential for domestic manufacturing of smartphones. They see the availability of raw materials, human capital and a solid political framework as key factors for success.

Mwanza-based technology analyst and marketing expert Medard Wilfred explains that the creation of manufacturing and assembly industries will make smartphones and internet access affordable to all citizens, accelerating the transition to an inclusive digital economy.

Mr. Wilfred explained that universal internet access will lead to a boom in e-commerce and the diversification of the entire economy, as farmers and other producers in the production chain will be able to sell their products to Wider market.

He called on universities such as Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT), Mbeya University of Science and Technology (MUST), University of Dar es Salaam and St Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) to recruit more technical experts and engineers to produce, managers, as well as marketers, who, in partnership with foreign investors, can lead the country’s mobile manufacturing race.

“The country’s universities should play a key role in accelerating smartphone assembly and manufacturing,” Wilfred said.

Government to support local mineral refining companies

He also called on the government to support local mineral refining companies to increase the value of precious metals such as lithium, gold, graphite and copper to ensure that potential investors have access to raw materials for smartphone production.

Economist and investment banker Ph.D. Hildebrand Shayo explained that creating a smartphone assembly company requires joint efforts at the family, school and national levels to instill a passion for technology in young people, who make up about 60% of the country’s total population.

PhD. Shajo commended the Ministry of Information, Communications and Information Technology for its determination to promote the digital economy through initiatives such as the modernization of the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB).

He called on ministries to work together to create a favorable investment environment and attract large technology investors to set up companies in the country.

PhD. Shayo suggested that the next national development plan should include an innovator support program that would fund various innovations aimed at realizing Tanzania’s dream of manufacturing smartphones. He emphasized that high-tech investment is capital-intensive and requires effective financing methods.

He stressed that the presence of large technology companies in the country will have a profound impact on the entire production chain, including job creation, higher foreign exchange and valuable income.

PhD. SAUT economist and lecturer Isaac Safari proposes the establishment of an innovation center that would bring together technology innovators from different parts of the country.

He suggested the center could eventually become Tanzania’s own Silicon Valley, similar to that in the United States.

Silicon Valley is a global hub for technology innovation and home to companies including Apple, Alphabet’s Google and Meta (formerly Facebook).

PhD. Safari explained that Tanzania’s Silicon Valley will become the center of major innovation in the country, adding that governments and development stakeholders should provide adequate funding and infrastructure to support new technologies, including smartphones.

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