UK tech firm picks Kenyan startup to make circuit boards

partnership between Liquid Technologies and Raspberry Pi

From left: Young Scientists Kenya Head of Programs Vanessa Inziani, Angaza Elimu CEO Kiko Muuo and Centre for ICT Integration CEO David Butita on a panel during the unveiling of a partnership between Liquid Technologies and Raspberry Pi on October 25, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

UK-based charity Raspberry Pi Foundation has contracted Kenyan electronics maker Gearbox Europlacer to produce circuit boards and computer chips on its behalf, raising Kenya's profile as a manufacturing hub.

Gearbox, which brands itself as an electronics manufacturing services provider, has been operational since late last year and is based in Nairobi’s Industrial Area.

The deal is set to enhance access to and ease the cost of Raspberry products in the local market due to the proximity of the manufacturing hub, a departure from the prevailing situation where users have to procure and import.

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“By doing this local manufacture, Raspberry can be in a position to guarantee the specific price of the board with the authorised reseller. Prior to them coming into the market, the price of Raspberry Pi products was being hiked up to three times due to the import and shipping logistics,” said Gearbox General Manager for sales Rowland Wanyama.

Gearbox says the manufactured products will bear Raspberry brand name and full identity but will contain the tag ‘Made in Kenya’.

“The impact of Raspberry appointing us as their manufacturer is a key issue, not just to us as a company but for the country as well because that positions Kenya potentially as the manufacturing hub for Africa,” said Wanyama.

In the envisioned plan, production will start during the final week of this month with the inaugural products set to hit the market in the first week of December.

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The first batch will contain 4,000 boards that will sell at a retail market price of $7 (Sh700) per piece across East and Central Africa, with Gearbox eyeing a scale-up in subsequent productions depending on market reception.

For the longest time, the manufacturing sector’s share of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has stagnated at about 10 percent, with the government and stakeholders seeking ways to unlock its potential and make it the catalyst for economic growth.

The sector’s share to GDP in the year ending December 2021 was 7.2 percent while the industry real value created during the year rose by 6.9 percent compared to a similar period the previous year.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has been pushing for integration of digital solutions in the sector, noting that innovations hold the key to a vibrant production.

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