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African hardware startups are in the minority. Instead, as capital barriers are low, the continent is seeing a boom in online ventures. That doesn’t mean however, that hardware manufacturing success is exclusive to the East.
Since 2003, PVision, a South African manufacturer of LED and LCD displays, has been rolling out locally manufactured products which include commercial displays, lite commercial displays, nano displays, touchscreen technology, mounting solutions and back-end architecture.
PVision CEO, David Ross, sees South Africa’s increasing engagement in the development and manufacture of high-end technologies, as a driver of economic change. It’s a specialised market, one that isn’t usually associated with the emerging markets of Africa.
“Market specialisation is often an effective enabler of sustainable change, and yet many South Africans sometimes regard skilled services such as technology development and manufacture as beyond the reach of local business. The reality, however, is that many local organisations are engaging in the creation, servicing and sale of high-end technologies typically associated with established economies such as South Korea, the United States or the European Union,” says Ross.
PVision’s facility is based in East London, Eastern Cape and produces display units for the commercial market. Ross says that in terms of technical capabilities and design, PVision’s units are on par with globally recognised standards and often outstrip internationally recognised brands which enjoy a presence in the domestic market.
Ross hopes that efforts of this nature will encourage market growth in developing territories and serve to establish South Africa as a hub for technology manufacture and development.
Intriguingly PVision has managed to thrive in one of South Africa’s most impoverished regions, equipping its employees with skills to manufacture and test display units — specialised and marketable proficiencies, which would not be associated with an area commonly referred to as disadvantaged or underprivileged. PVision also sun an active skills development programme.
Although South Africa is widely recognised for the extraction of raw materials and fine metals, Ross believes there no reason why local entities cannot engage in specialised activity:
Be it the manufacture of internationally competitive display units, computer processors or mobile devices, South Africa has the skills and desire to play an active role in the international technology market. It’s no secret that we are widely regarded as a pioneer of cellular technology and adoption; why not pursue a future in which local residents actively contribute to the development and creation of new technical offerings? The potential is certainly there, now it’s about execution.