The African smartphone and tablet markets might not be as developed as the ones in Europe, America or Asia, but things are definitely not going to remain that way forever.

One of the first African-based tech companies to make headway with gadget manufacturing is VMK, which we already saw unveil an Android tablet about a year ago (modest by our standards, but decent for a market focused so much on affordability).

Now VMK is back in action, and this time the Congolese company has a pretty exciting Android-based smartphone to show off. Again, this is not to be judged by high-end standards we usually apply to gadgets, but rather seen through the eyes of tech enthusiasts that are only at the beginning of a long, but very stimulating journey.

Better yet, think of yourselves two, three or four years ago and think of what you then considered to be “high-tech”.

That said, I give you the 3.5-inch Gingerbread-running Elikia! The petite handheld is a pretty decently designed phone (even by today’s standards), being rather stylish and elegant. Its 150g weight and 11.2mm thickness won’t be winning the phone any awards, but will make it portable and “easily pocketable”.

If you’re wondering about Elikia’s seemingly exotic name, you should know that it’s not just striking, but also meaningful. “Elikia” means hope in the Lingala language, so you can imagine the wide public will be looking towards the phone with much interest even before finding out its tech specs.

Talking about specs, the Elikia is certainly not a “power tool”, being set to only come with a 650Mhz processor (no details on the manufacturer and model), 512MB of RAM and 126MB of on-board storage. Fortunately, the phone does come with microSD support for expanding the memory with an additional 32GB, but also with all the connectivity options you might hope to see at a device from the more “civilized” world, including 3G, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, A-GPS and USB 2.0.

The 1,300mAh battery might seem stingy at first, but coupled with the phone’s “thrifty” processor, it should be enough for up to six hours of running time between charges. The display is of the capacitive multitouch flavor and sports a 480 x 320 pixels resolution, while Android 2.3 is very nicely seasoned with a taste of ICS courtesy of a pre-loaded unofficial Holo Launcher.

Google Play purchases are not yet allowed in Congo, but the Elikia does come with access to VMK’s own app store. As far as pricing goes, the 3.5-incher will be made available off-contract at the equivalent of around $170, but should also be up for grabs subsidized in the near future from the country’s major carriers (Airtel, MTN and Warid).

I surely can’t imagine anyone would pay $170 for such a modestly equipped phone in Europe or the States, but for a market so fresh as the African one this could be a rather decent deal. And above all, a ray of hope and a signal that a revolution is in the making. Do you guys agree? How soon do you think we’ll see African-made gadgets attack other continents?