>By David Himbara
General Paul Kagame bromance with Ashish Thakkar is legendary. The Rwandan strongman transferred part of the Rwanda Development Bank to the Atlas Mara group owned by Thakkar and Bob Diamond.
Then, Kagame transferred Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR) to the pair. Things fell apart – soon Thakkar and Diamond jumped the sinking ship.
Next, Kagame facilitated Thakkar with loans from the Bank of Kigali to launch “made-in-Rwanda” Mara smartphone in 2019.
Kagame boasted that the Mara Group “shares our vision for Rwanda’s development” and vowed “to ensure that Mara Group’s investment is commercially successful, which is also to our benefit.” Thakker claimed the Rwandan plant cost US$50 million.
The same year, Thakkar launched an even bigger smartphone assembly plant in South Africa, pledging to invest R1.5 billion or US$98 million. Fast forward to 2022 – the South African smartphone assembly plant has gone bankrupt and is being auctioned off.
Will Mara smartphone in Rwanda survive? And how will the Rwandan strongman “ensure that Mara Group remains commercially successful”, to use his own boast?