Rival tablet manufacturers launch in Haiti

Dec 28, 2013 by Trenton Daniel
In this Dec. 19, 2013 photo, technicians assemble Android Surtab tablets at the Industrial Park in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Two tech companies in Haiti have launched competing businesses to sell Android tablets. Startups Surtab SA and Handxom SA began production last month and plan to sell the 7-inch touchscreen devices to phone stores nationwide and markets overseas. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Two tech companies have launched rival ventures to build Android tablets in Haiti, a country with little recent experience in electronics manufacturing.

Startups Surtab SA and Handxom SA began production last month and plan to sell the 7-inch touchscreen devices to phone stores nationwide and markets overseas.

Surtab says it has already sold hundreds of tablets to customers including Haiti's education and planning ministries and mobile phone giant Digicel, which sells the tablets in its stores.

Handxom plans to open a showroom next month in the Port-au-Prince area and project manager Jimmy Jacques said the company has already sold 300 units in the past two weeks.

The owners of both companies say their businesses show that Haiti is capable of manufacturing more than just clothing, while also paying people decent wages.

"We can do high quality products here—not just T-shirts, but something with a little more value, which can allow us to pay our workers better and create a different type of economy than what's been the case," said CEO Maarten Boute, a Belgian businessman who worked until 2012 as the CEO for Digicel's Haiti office.

Haiti once had an electronic assembly sector, but a U.N.-imposed embargo in the 1990s forced many of the companies to close.

In this Dec. 19, 2013 photo, a technician tests the camera feature on an Android Surtab tablet at the Industrial Park in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Two tech companies in Haiti have launched competing businesses to sell Android tablets. Startups Surtab SA and Handxom SA began production last month and plan to sell the 7-inch touchscreen devices to phone stores nationwide and markets overseas. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Founded by a Danish couple, a prominent Haitian family and Boute, Surtab began with the help of a $200,000 grant from the Pan-American Development Fund. It now employs 50 people, 20 of whom assemble the units in an air-tight production room.

Surtab employees earn a base salary of $6.81 per work day with a bonus per unit that can push pay above $13, said Diderot Musset, Surtab's operations manager.

Haiti's minimum wage is $4.54 a day.

Handxsom's Jimmy Jacques declined to say how much the company pays its employees but said it hopes to hire as many as 400 people.

In this Dec. 19, 2013 photo, a technician assembles an Android Surtab tablet at the Industrial Park in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Two tech companies in Haiti have launched competing businesses to sell Android tablets. Startups Surtab SA and Handxom SA began production last month and plan to sell the 7-inch touchscreen devices to phone stores nationwide and markets overseas. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

The most basic tablet sells for about $100 and comes with a Wi-Fi. Prices rise to $280 for a model with a high-definition screen and 3G phone connection. All come with 7-inch screens.

The baseline Surtab machine has a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor with 1 GB of RAM. The high-definition model carries a quad-core processor and 2 GB of RAM.

In this Dec. 19, 2013 photo, technicians assemble Android Surtab tablets at the Industrial Park in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Two tech companies in Haiti have launched competing businesses to sell Android tablets. Startups Surtab SA and Handxom SA began production last month and plan to sell the 7-inch touchscreen devices to phone stores nationwide and markets overseas. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Most Haitians cannot afford the devices. Three-quarters of the 10 million people live on less than $2 a day and half of the population earns less than $1 a day. But Surtab executives say they hope to reach the country's tiny middle class.

Explore further: HIV rates in Haiti drop over decade

4.4 /5 (7 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

HIV rates in Haiti drop over decade

Dec 01, 2013

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince says the number of Haitians who have tested positive for HIV has declined over the past decade.

Haiti's prime minister tours Silicon Valley

Nov 20, 2013

From Google to Facebook to Apple, Haiti's Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe plans to spend Wednesday on a whirlwind tour through Silicon Valley's most elite tech campuses, hoping to convince some of the world's ...

Mobile money plan stumbles at start in Haiti

Jun 10, 2012

(AP) — Getting money in Haiti can be a harrowing experience: Bank branches are few, most of them are in the capital and a simple transaction can take half a day. Cash machines are scarce as well, and often broken or ...

Dominican official denies report of bird flu

Jun 08, 2013

A Dominican official says Haiti erroneously reported that his country has an outbreak of avian flu when it cited the disease as a reason for imposing a ban this week on the import of Dominican meats, chicken, eggs and other ...

Haiti to test cholera vaccine

Oct 19, 2011

Haiti's health ministry is preparing to test a cholera vaccine on a hundred people, a year after an epidemic killed over 6,500 people, officials said Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Out-of-patience investors sell off Amazon

41 minutes ago

Amazon has long acted like an ideal customer on its own website: a freewheeling big spender with no worries about balancing a checkbook. Investors confident in founder and CEO Jeff Bezos' invest-and-expand ...

States ascend into the cloud

7 hours ago

Seven years ago, the state of Delaware started moving computer servers out of closets and from under workers' desks to create a consolidated data center and a virtual computing climate.

Microsoft drops Nokia name from smartphones

9 hours ago

Microsoft said Friday it was dropping the Nokia name from its Lumia smartphones, rebranding following the acquisition earlier this year of the Finnish group's handset division.

Amazon's loss makes holidays a question mark

9 hours ago

Amazon's trademark smile icon is becoming more of a grimace. The world's largest online retailer reported a wider third-quarter loss than analysts expected and gave a disappointing holiday forecast.

User comments : 0