Africell Group tapped manufacturing company Industry Five to launch a pilot feature phone assembly programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a move tipped to help offset the impact of global supply chain shortages.

In what the pair billed as a first for the nation, Africell and Industry Five explained they plan to begin manufacturing up to 30,000 devices in January 2022. Further monthly production runs are planned if the initial batch meets the operator’s quality standards.

Assembly is slated to take place at an Industry Five facility in DRC capital city Kinshasa, with technicians aided by robots.

The first Africell-branded handsets are expected to be ready in February 2022, with up to half a million more set for assembling in the following year.

Industry Five expects to create up to 5,000 technical jobs in DRC over the next five years, focused on producing tablets, laptops, servers and data storage equipment.

Africell explained the move builds on network expansion efforts in DRC this year, including extension of infrastructure and launching services in new provinces.

Group communications director Sam Williams stated the device assembly plan stimulated supply chain innovation and showed the operator is making “a long-term bet which could transform the economics of mobile provision in our African operating markets”.

The project is also backed by the government as it looks to increase digital inclusion in the country.