We’re delighted to say that, as of this week, we’re manufacturing Raspberry Pi Pico for the African market in Kenya, at Gearbox Europlacer in Nairobi.
Those of you who’ve been with us since the start of the Raspberry Pi story will recall that we began building Raspberry Pis in China in 2012. We immediately started work on reshoring, and built our first UK‑manufactured Raspberry Pi at the Sony UK Technology Centre in Pencoed, South Wales, in the summer of that year.
Over the following decade, we progressively relocated our production to the UK, to the point where today almost all Raspberry Pi products are manufactured four hours down the road from Pi Towers in Pencoed: from there we export them to customers all over the world. Notable exceptions are Pico W, which hails from Sony Inazawa in Japan; and the PoE+ HAT, which is built by our friends at Dongguan Taijie in China.
Building our products close to home allows us to iterate quickly, applying lessons learned in production to make them simpler, and cheaper, to produce. And having a factory in the UK, which is one of our largest markets, simplifies logistics and lets us respond quickly to changes in demand.
So it’s more than a little surprising to be writing an offshoring announcement. Starting this week, we’ll be building Raspberry Pi Pico products for the African market at Gearbox Europlacer in Nairobi, part of the Gearbox ecosystem. Roger is in Kenya now, helping the team there bring up the manufacturing process, and we’re expecting him to return with a freshly baked batch of “Made in Kenya” Picos by the end of the week.
Mike and I had the opportunity to visit Gearbox last month, to meet with its founder Dr Kamau Gachigi, and to tour the Europlacer facility with Latiff Cherono, its manager. What we found there was a state-of-the-art surface-mount assembly line, which in principle could be used to build almost any Raspberry Pi product. We’re starting with Pico, our smallest, simplest, lowest-cost product, but in due course hope to add others, including Pico W and Zero 2 W.
Why are we doing this? As with the reshoring of production to Wales, it’s a happy coincidence of self-interest and a desire to support electronic manufacturing in a country we care deeply about. By bringing parts rather than finished goods into Kenya, we pay lower import duties, and benefit from other government incentives; and by stockpiling components locally, we will be able to react more quickly to the rapidly increasing demand for our products in east Africa.
Approved Reseller partners in Africa
Our relationship with Gearbox Europlacer has grown out of the work we’ve been doing to build out our network of Approved Reseller partners in Africa. Since Ken Okolo joined us in May last year to run our Africa team, we’ve added eleven new resellers, and we’re on track to have at least one reseller in each country on the continent by 2025.
The scale of the opportunity in Africa is vast, and after seven days in Ghana and Kenya I’m definitely a convert. During our trip, we met the Ghanaian Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum (at 6.30am!), and visited STL Semiconductor, a silicon wafer processing facility in Nyeri, Kenya. Everywhere we went, the energy and enthusiasm we encountered, not to mention the welcome we received, reminded us of the earliest days of Raspberry Pi in the UK.
Within a few years, I believe the African Raspberry Pi ecosystem will be the equal of what we’ve built together in our more mature markets.