Verone Mankou hopes to become the Steve Jobs of Africa. The 27-year-old Congolese entrepreneur recently released the continent’s first ever homegrown smart phone and tablet, a move Mankou hopes will result in his company, VMK, cornering the booming mobile phone market in Africa.

“Only Africans know what Africa needs,” Mankou explained during a speech at a technology conference. “Apple is huge in the US, Samsung is huge in Asia, and we want VMK to be huge in Africa.”

VMK’s offerings, the Way-C tablet and Elikia, are “African designed” gadgets with lower price tags than major brands, a fact Mankou hopes will make them more attractive to local consumers.

SmartPlanet.com gives a few more details about VMK’s products:

 The Way-C, or “the light of the stars”  in the local Lingala language, is a small tablet roughly the size of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. It measures 7.4″ x 6.7″ x 0.5″ and weighs 13.4 ounces. Wi-Fi connectivity and 4GB of internal memory come standard. While its specs aren’t eye-popping, the price is. At $300, it comes in less than the iPad mini.

The Elikia (”Hope”) is an Android-based smartphone with a 3.5-inch display, rear and forward facing cameras, 512MB of RAM, and a 650MHz processor. It retails for $170 without a contract.

Despite VMK’s promise, not everyone is convinced the company lives up to its hype. After a Nigerian company claimed to have produced Africa’s first smart phone a few years ago, consumers later learned it was an OEM (original equipment manufacture) product available throughout the world sold under different names. But Mankou insists his products are original and designed in Congo.

VMK dedicated an entire section of their website to explain why and how their products are original and designed in Africa, and has said that he is “offended by the comments of those who, despite our evidence to stubbornly refuse to recognize the authenticity of our products.” He blames the skepticism on “Afro-pessimists” who believe “nothing good can come from Africa,” but Mankou aims to change that.

His vision might just be catching on. In addition to selling their devices in Congo, VMK also has plans to expands to 10 West African countries and Belgium, France and India.

22 Comments

  1. LOKOUMOU YA CONGO (CONGO'S PRIDE)

    Thank you Britni Danielle for this article!!! It’s great to see Africans/Blacks excelling in business and and technology. We need more of these type of stories.
    I’m proud of Verone Mankou. He makes me even prouder to be Congolese. I’m visiting Brazzaville in 2 months and will definitely get a VMK product.

  2. WHY????

    Y jump on the same bandwagon?

    Come up with something new and different. In any industry.

    Is that war in Congo over and has the atrocities against some Congolese women over?

    PLEASE!

    • Steph

      There are no atrocities against women in Congo-Brazzaville. You are referring to a different Congo (RDC). Anyway even if it was the case why are you not happy to see something good coming out of an African country? Your statement shows that you don’t know anything about the region. There are two Congo in case you don’t know (Please check your map). I am Sorry mate but that Elikia is not the kind of news you are not used to and I am not surprised that no one talks about in the west. The mobile industry is a hot topic why focus on a different sector while everything is going mobile? I am from Congo-Brazzaville and proud of this product.

    • LOKOUMOU YA CONGO (CONGO'S PRIDE)

      WHY??? Why not? SMFH.The guy is 27, and he’s making strides in technology and business, and you somehow find something negative to say about that. Tell us, what have you invented?

      FYI, Mr Mankou is from the Republic of Congo (a.k.a Congo-Brazzaville, which is a different country than the Democratic republic of Congo a.k.a Congo-Kinshasa/f.k.a Zaïre). The war you’re referring to is in the eastern part of the Dem. Rep of the Congo, of which Mr Mankou is not a citizen.

      Honestly, I didn’t except you to know the difference between the two countries.I know it can be confusing to tell the difference between the two names. Even if he were from the DRC,he doesn’t mean he cannot be a tech innovator. There are atrocities here in the US too, maybe not exactly of the same magnitude but that didn’t stop the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

      Your comment was uncalled for and actually ignorant.

  3. ruggie

    Sounds promising!

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