Silicon Industries (SICO Technology), an Egyptian electronics manufacturer, launched its first locally-made tablet computer this week.
Though it includes foreign-made components provided through a partnership with China, “the percentage of locally-produced components is 45 per cent,” Mohamed Salem, chairman of SICO Technology, said.
The locally produced tablet, dubbed the SICO Express 3, is manufactured in Upper Egypt’s Assiut governorate and sells for LE1,149.
“In the first two weeks of production, 10,000 tablets will be released onto the market. We plan to produce 150,000 tablets this year and double that number next year,” Salem said during the launch of the SICO Express 3.
SICO Technology is a member of the Al-Sayed Salem Group, founded in 1948 as a leading business conglomerate.
SICO itself started operations in 2003, and in May 2016 signed an agreement with the Chinese Megan Group in the Chinese city of Shenzhen to manufacture a range of modern electronic devices in Egypt.
“So far, our investment is estimated at LE422 million, and the company is seeking to inject more investment to reach LE3 billion in three years. We are planning to export the tablet to Arab countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait,” Salem said.
He said the company was not only planning to double its six production lines to speed up growth, but was also working on doubling the local components used inside the device itself.
Mohamed Salah, an IT engineer, believes the recently launched tablet will succeed in the Egyptian market. “Having a locally produced tablet, even with 45 per cent locally produced components, is a good step for the electronics industry,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Regarding the chances of the SICO Express 3 to succeed in the local market in the light of fierce competition from Chinese products, Salah said that “it should succeed because its price is competitive compared to other tablets, guiding purchase decisions, it is ideal for Internet browsing, and it will appeal to younger age segments of the market.”
“We should build on this step and increase the locally produced components,” Salah said. “The government should also provide incentives and protection for local manufacturers so they can compete with imported products. It should include the electronics industry under the umbrella of its export-stimulation programme given the high value of the sector’s returns.”
He stressed the need for sufficient marketing, especially in the local market, so that the new tablet does not meet the fate of the first locally produced tablet in 2013.
In April 2013, Egypt unveiled its first ever locally manufactured tablet computer, the Inar, made by state-owned electronics firm Katron, which was established in 1964.
Inar was primarily intended for educational purposes as it was planned to be sold to the Ministry of Education at a subsidised price in order to encourage computers in education.
However, the five-year-old tablet, a milestone in the Egyptian electronics industry, has since been forgotten even though it is still sold through the state-owned Benha Electronics Group at the price of LE950.
“Inar’s success faltered due to the lack of sufficient marketing, continuous development of the product and lack of government support,” Salah said.
Weighing 265 grams, the SICO Express 3 comes equipped with a Micro USB port, is a dual SIM device and is 2G/3G and Wi-Fi enabled, has a seven-inch screen, two cameras, a front 2.0 Megapixel one and a rear 0.3 Megapixel one, and is equipped with an Android 7.0 operating system.
It has a built-in memory of eight GB and supports an external storage capacity of up to 32 GB.
The tablet, which is available in two colours, gold and black, is equipped with a Quad-core 1.2 GHz processor. It has a 2800mAh battery that can last for up to six hours of talk time or 30 hours of music playing.
Mahmoud, the owner of a mobile and tablet shop in Cairo, has sold only one tablet since its launch a few days ago.
“People still have not heard enough about the SICO Express 3,” he told the Weekly. He added that it had a great opportunity to succeed in the market due to its reasonable price.
“The competitors of the SICO Express 3 are the Chinese brands IKU, Atouch and Quantum as they have almost the same specifications and their prices range between LE900 and LE1,200. But the SICO Express 3 has an updated version of the Android software in addition to being made in Egypt,” Mahmoud said.
“The three Chinese brands have fewer buyers as the number one tablet on the market right now is the Lenovo, priced at LE1,650. The Egyptian tablet thus has a very good chance to compete due to the price difference,” Mahmoud added.
In February, SICO Technology released its first locally manufactured smartphone across the country, with the same local-component proportion at 45 per cent, including parts of the motherboard.
Of the three models produced, the Nile X has the best specifications and sells at LE3,500. There is also a Plus 2 smartphone for LE2,000.
“The Egyptian smartphones have not been very successful since their launch a few months ago due to their uncompetitive prices compared to rivals on the market among other factors. Buyers are also interested in brand reputation, and they tend to read online reviews before purchasing. There is still a lack of trust in the reliability of Egyptian mobiles,” Mahmoud said.
He said that the Chinese manufacturer Huawei was selling two models at the same price, or even slightly cheaper, than the Nile X and Plus 2.
Another factor that could hamper the success of the Egyptian mobiles was their lack of accessories such as mobile covers and screen protectors. These are available in many varieties in the case of SICO’s rivals, but they are lacking for the Egyptian mobiles.
Egyptian manufacturers should take these factors into account if they want their products to compete in the market place, Mahmoud said. Some purchasers of Egyptian mobiles had been “nationally motivated,” he said.
SICO Technology is targeting five per cent of the local market for smartphones in its first year of production.
The mobile-phone penetration rate in Egypt was 110 per cent in January 2017, with 98.2 million users, according to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 July 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: A tablet made in Egypt