Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

Digital Inclusion

First KaiOS smart feature phone drops in Malawi

Article Image
Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) has rolled out the first 4G KaiOS-enabled smart feature phone in the country, promising customers "the most affordable 4G device in the history of mobile Internet in Malawi."

This new category of affordable phones is becoming popular across the continent. KaiOS enables the hybrid phones that require limited memory but give users a better experience, as well as access to the Internet and popular apps.

Last month Econet Wireless launched the first 3G smart feature phone in Zimbabwe, also a KaiOS-enabled device.

Over the past two years similar devices have been rolled out by various operators in Mali, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Botswana, Cameroon, Egypt, Senegal, Tanzania, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa.

TNM CEO Michiel Buitelaar said the TNM Smart 4G devices were designed to suit the communication needs of first-time users, and people in rural areas, and would "help people to entertain and educate themselves or have broadband Internet."

TNM is Malawi's biggest mobile operator, with a market share of about 55%. According to Omdia data, TNM had almost 5 million customers at the end of March 2020.

Malawi's Minister of Information Gospel Kazako unveiling the TNM Smart 4G phone with TNM CEO Michiel Buitelaar.
Malawi's Minister of Information Gospel Kazako unveiling the TNM Smart 4G phone with TNM CEO Michiel Buitelaar.

The smart feature phone enables 4G connectivity and other smartphone-like features such as Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth – but looks more like a traditional feature phone.

It also gives access to popular apps such as WhatsApp, Google Assistant, Google Maps, YouTube and Facebook.

To address low digital literacy issues, Buitelaar said the phone comes with an easy-to-use interface and an in-house app called Life. This features training and lessons related to digital literacy, and other educational content.

It also provides access to Google Assistant, allowing first-time Internet users, or those with limited literacy, to use voice to navigate and connect with the digital world.

He also believes the device will help disseminate timely and accurate information on COVID-19 to Malawians.

Affordability issues
Affordability of smartphones and high mobile data prices continue to be a barrier to entry for Africans to get online.

According to a 2020 study from, Malawi has the sixth most expensive data prices in the world, with 1GB of data costing on average $27.41.

TNM claims the Smart 4G phone will be the most affordable 4G device of its kind in the Malawian market, at a price of 24,999 Malawian Kwacha (US$33).

This is more expensive than the $20 price point seen in some other markets in Africa for the 3G versions.

However the phone comes with a package of data and SMSs worth MK28,000 ($38) – including 500MB of data, 150 SMSs and free Caller Tune every month for six months.

The TNM Smart 4G phone
The TNM Smart 4G phone

Malawi's Information Minister, Gospel Kazako, attended the launch event and commended TNM for its efforts towards Malawi's economic development through investments in mobile Internet and ICT.

"TNM Plc takes a long view. They have invested significantly in a 4G mobile Internet network that has transformed the TNM network into one of the most reliable Internet service providers in Malawi," Kazako said.

KaiOS is the third-largest mobile operating system in the world, with more than 135 million devices shipped in over 150 countries.

Related posts:

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub


Hot startup of the month: Pan-African fintech KamaPay

This month's hot startup is pan-African fintech KamaPay, which helps individuals and businesses make cross-border payments on the continent.


Afretec awards $3.3M in grants to African research teams

The African Engineering and Technology Network (Afretec) has awarded grants worth $300,000 each to 11 university research teams across Africa to advance digital technologies.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Sponsored video

More videos

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Flash poll

All polls

Africa Tech Perspectives


Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.


Challenges and opportunities for women's tech careers

A new survey reveals that COVID-19, the cost-of-living crisis, skills shortages and a lack of mentorship have negatively affected women's career development over the past two years.


Survey: Opportunities for Women in Tech

Take our new survey for women across Asia, Europe and Africa looking at the biggest challenges and opportunities for women-led enterprises and trends in tech careers for women.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Upcoming events

London Tech Week
June 13-16, 2023
Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Broad Sanctuary, London SW1P 3EE
Cybertech Africa 2023
August 1-2, 2023
Kigali Convention Center, Kigali, Rwanda
Africa Tech Festival, Home of AfricaCom and AfricaTech
November 13-16, 2023
CTICC, Cape Town
More Upcoming events

Guest Perspectives


Omdia View: February 2023

By Omdia Analysts

In February 2023 key events in the Middle East and Africa included a major Internet project for Africa's underserved by Liquid Intelligent Technologies and Microsoft as well as a 5G launch in Tanzania – that and more in this month's Omdia View.


Omdia View: July 2022

By Omdia Analysts

Kenya and Zambia move towards 5G with new spectrum allocations while Tunisie Telecom plans to shut down its 3G network - that and more in this month's Omdia View.

More Guest Perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up