Feature Article of Thursday, 14 October 2010

Columnist: Dowuona, Samuel

RLG shows the way in mobile phone manufacturing in Africa

By Samuel Dowuona

Ghana is known for exporting commodities in their raw, low-value state. But recently, on the back of a number of special international trade protocols, there has been remarkable boom in the export of processed goods like clothes, canned food and others. With the recent discovery of oil in commercial quantifies in the country, Ghana will soon be exporting crude oil. But ahead of that, another unusual high-value commodity has just been added to the country’s list of exports; mobile phones.

The country’s first cell phone manufacturer, RLG Communications has since the past six months introduced a total of 18 R-series and G-series cell phones unto the local, continental and Asian markets.

The CEO of RLG, 38-year old Ghanaian-born Entrepreneur, Roland Agambire says “we have already captured 30% of the local market and looking forward to capturing 80% by the close of year - plans are also far advanced to export to other Africa countries and to Europe.”

True to the words of Roland, the company recently signed two separate multi-million-dollar contracts with cell phone manufacturers Huawei of China and KZG of Hong-Kong to produce 100,000 of a new line of cell phone, dubbed L-series for high-end users here and abroad.

About 30,000 youth in the National Youth Employment Programme are also waiting to be employed in RLG’s 100 million-dollar state of the art manufacturing plant to be completed next year within the Spintex industrial area in Accra. The company is also emphatic on its mission to create 5,000 permanent jobs in the country. That is huge, considering how many permanent jobs the number one company in Ghana’s Club 100 has created.

If Ghanaians thought RLG is one of those nine-day wonders, then we need to pinch ourselves because the company has gone international. Six months ago RLG Cote d’Ivoire was born and just weeks ago RLG Gambia was also born. These are not just sub-regional sales and marketing outlets, but a move to establish assembling plants and train the youth in mobile phone assembling, the RLG Way.

Communications Director of RLG was emphatic that “we are not going to the Gambia and Cote d’Ivoire to teach the youth how to make Nokia or Samsung phones, but how to make RLG phones – we are introducing the RLG technology across Africa, Asia and the world.”

That sounds over confident, but if there ever was any relevant innovative technology introduced to this country by one of its own sons, this is it: RLG Phones.

Ghanaians could have hardly imagined that a young man from no other place than the most deprived and marginalized northern sector of the country would dare to step into such a far-fetched terrain as mobile phone manufacture the way Roland has done.

The famous biblical saying; “can anything good come out of Nazareth” has come under the threat of being rewritten several times because of feats such as the one Roland has achieved, and set to achieve.

RLG was established in February, 2001 as a mobile phone repairs and sales agent under the name Rogam Links Ghana Limited. But unlike many Ghanaian businesses, which pride themselves in being sole agents for some big brands abroad, Roland said goodbye to the agency business after a number of years and has since moved into manufacturing the product locally and selling it internationally.

Today, RLG has branch offices in all 10 regions of Ghana, and each them has between eight and 16 sales and service centres, all managed by RLG trainees. Speaking of trainees, the NYEP ICT Module under RLG has passed out some 1,000 youths with skills in mobile phone repairs and assembling, as well as sales, marketing and management capabilities.

As if that was not enough, the company offers two years warranty on its phones, and also replaces damaged parts for free; and when necessary, they even replace damaged phones.

This is also huge because hardly does any company in Ghana replace a spoilt gadgets. On the contrary, shops in Ghana always state that “goods bought cannot be returned” and “moneys paid for goods are not refundable”.

One would have expected that because RLG phones are relatively affordable, they would have adopted the ‘no refund’ rule, but RLG has proven to be the different company Ghanaians have been waiting for.

It is refreshing to know that very soon Ghanaians around the world would have an additional reason why people will always remember Ghana. For now, anytime a Ghanaian introduces himself to a foreigner, the latter always mentioned names like Kwame Nkrumah, Azumah, Essien, and most recently, Gyan.

But very soon people abroad will also remember Ghana for locally made modern technology – RLG Phones, or better still by the new name of the brand after the re-branding later this year.

For Roland, RLG is just a means to an end. Indeed during the huge musical bash at the Banquet Hall to launch the G-series of RLG Phones, Roland made it clear to observers, admirers and critics that he is out to show to his fellow Africans and to the world that Africans have the capacity to take their place on Forbes Magazines billionaire lists.

Said Roland: in the next few years Africans will be named among the top five billionaires in the world - when that time comes I will be one of those Africans.

How refreshing to hear a fellow African speak with such audacity? The spirit of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah is indeed here with us, and it would not be surprising if some Ghanaians have thought to themselves and even voiced it that Roland is ahead of himself and his generation. Osagyefo was accused of same, but posterity is bearing him up today.

Till date, Ghana can still not boast of any marked infrastructure that can be traced to any other leader beside Osagyefo. Roland’s giant step, mobile phone manufacture, is about the biggest and significant thing that can be compared to the achievements of Osagyefo.

The beauty of Roland’s achievement and mission to be one of the Africans to be on the world billionaires’ list in the next few years is that Roland is not doing that through the use of state funds; he does not even have access to state funds.

RLG has come this far purely on private funds and is rather providing jobs and skills to thousands of Ghanaian and African youth, all through private funds. Roland is even supporting government projects directly with his private funds.

I bet in no time Africa will come to terms with Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s statement that “there is a new African in the world, and that new African is ready to prove that after all the black man is capable of managing his own affairs.”

Roland is no doubt one of the new African’s Osagyefo dreamed of.

RLG is well on the way to vindicate Osagyefo by putting in the hands of Africans the power to manage our own affairs when it comes to the mobile phone handsets we use on the continent.

One can only hope that Africans will set aside the PhD. (pull him down) attitude and tactics, and put our all behind this “new African” initiative which promises to place us even higher on the world stage. ENDS