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Labor strikes halt Tecno mobile factory line

With an ambitious goal of exporting its products to neighboring nations to the tune of more than USD 40 million a year and appease the demands of its products simultaneously, the Chinese-owned Transsion – maker of affordable TECNO mobile phones in Ethiopia – is facing its biggest challenge to date. Its plant factory is in a midst of a week-long strike over pay and working conditions of its 2000-plus employees in the Gofa and Alem Gena factories, triggering many to join the picket lines, The Reporter has learnt.

Efforts to mediate the situation have yielded little success and the strike is expected to continue, sources told The Reporter, failing to deliver its products at its signature stores throughout the country forcing many to open “in name” only for more than a month with little transaction and minimal staff support.

The now-called Transsion opened its first factory in Ethiopia by partnering with local actors, including Levi Wake – an Ethiopian-American entrepreneur — one of its major shareholders in 2009. This happened after abruptly abandoning its plan to open its first factory in the continent in Nigeria in 2014, making its Addis Ababa suburb location its first. It introduced its locally made Android smart phones with bilingual language options, Amharic and English in the summer of 2012.

Within its plants, the company intended to become a hub for neighboring nations and earn it a much needed forex. The TECNO brand continues to win favors from local consumers attributed to its cost, warranties and services, giving it advantages other imported phones do not offer.

Last year, among the 4 million phones blocked by Ethio-telecom over a new national Equipment Identity Registration System to help control contraband products, TECNO was hit the hardest inconveniencing thousands of customers for well over a month.

The Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority have been looking at measures to curb contraband phones in the country and that the Ethiopian Assemblers Association estimates to be 65 percent out of the estimated 47 cell phone users in the nation.

The maker of TECNO claims to sell products worth USD 50 million annually in Ethiopia and had hoped to up its share in the market this year.

The Reporter reached out to the company’s public relations director, Samrawit Solomon for comment, despite being given ample time to respond to a list of written inquires made on Monday and being made aware of the deadline, she did not reply as of press time.