IPad Rival From Congo: a New Challenge From the South
By Naoko Asano Enomoto
As One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) has just launched their newest version as a tablet, the tablet has become one of the active players in education of developing countries, especially in Africa. However, tablets are not always from “developing countries” anymore. This time, I will write about the new wave of tablets from Africa, based on the article from the global post.
A 26 year-old inventor, Verone Mankou and VMK, his company, have just introduced the new tablet named the Way-C, which means “the light of stars”, in Republic of Congo on Jan30, 2012. Mankou evaluated the Way-C as highly competitive enough to survive the global tablet market, where iPad by the US Apple and other giant competitors are waiting.
The innovator of the new product Mankou claims on the official Way-C website that the product he invented is inexpensive and durable. Another special feature of the product is that it will fulfill the market demands for a tablet for and by the Africans. “Originally the idea was to design a low-cost computer to bring Internet access to as many people as possible,” Mankou said.
As a matter of fact Way-C is spreading fast, being exported across Africa now. VMK marketing plan aims to expand the Way-C tablet to West Africa, Belgium, France and India from this February. The initial selling price of the Way-C is $300. To keep their product market-competitive, and due to the lack of appropriate factories in African countries, the Congo-born tablet is assembled in China.
Considering the recent ICT industries, many are aware of the progress and developments of ICT hardware, which more and more come from developing countries. For example, the Indian government invented $35 tablets , and a China-based company produces a mobile phone for Ethiopians within Ethiopia.
However, the emergence of this high-tech device from Africa stands out when we see the case from the lenses of the World-system theory. While BBC’s Mobile-learning has worked to sustain the existing socioeconomic power distribution between UK and Bangladesh (reported by Fatima), the case of the Way-C suggests the possibility to open up a new horizon and challenge the existing dynamics around the globe.
Challenge from “Periphery” to “Core” in the same arena
Unlike the existing low-cost ICT devices, the Way-C is targeting not only domestic market but also the global market, as the inventor Mankou saying “In technological terms, this tablet is equivalent to all those to be found on the market”. Moreover, the Way-C is the cutting-edge “tablet”, which is one of the strongholds of the “Core”, including the US giant Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon.
According to the World Bank’s country report , the economy in the Republic Congo is highly dependent on the oil sector, which is typical of “Periphery” countries in the World-System theory. This cutting-edge tablet is from such a typical “Periphery” country, but it breaks the model by being a finished product, instead of just a raw material exported to the Core.
The new model of supply chain in ICT global market
VMK’s model for supply chain is also notable. The Way-C is designed in the Congo but assembled in China because the Congo lacks a domestic factory and VMK seeks to minimize the cost. Then will be sold in 10 West African countries, Belgium, France and India. This model suggests that even if a firm which has a solid idea but has insufficient domestic infrastructure, it can still introduce products to the global market.
The Way-C has just started to test its value in the market We need to wait and see if the Way-C model successfully opens the new frontier outside the existing World System and earns its name as “light of the stars” for the people in the Periphery.
Congo Republic: Country Brief from The world Bank Country Brief
India launches Aakash tablet computer priced at $35 from BBC NEWS South Asia on October 5, 2011 goo.gl/qes1v
One Laptop per Child (OLPC) goo.gl/vbhUN
Way-C tablet, the first African iPad rival, goes on sale in Congo from GlobalPost on January 30, 2012
ZTE to assemble mobile phones in Ethiopia from nazret.com (n.d.)