Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Beating the Big Guys to Africa

There’s a window of opportunity in Africa right now. Many of the “big” web companies don’t realize the potential that Africa represents in the web and mobile space, so they ignore it. Those who act now have a chance to own that market and take advantage of Africa being an afterthought.

For example, I spoke with a director of PayPal at eBay’s annual conference a couple weeks back. I mentioned that I would be out in Kenya soon, and wondered what his thoughts were on where PayPal was going on that continent. He stated that they weren’t looking to do any development in Africa at the moment. What a wide open door for someone in Africa…

The lion’s share of web development happens in America. Most American developers however feel like they have a big enough market within their own country. Those that don’t only venture into Europe or China, and that’s the end of their “internationalization”. What they fail to realize is that there is a huge market in other places like Africa. Sure, it takes a little getting used to the localization and user differences, but it’s there.

Alibaba and BaiduAn example of this can be seen in China. Alibaba, the Chinese auction site had the jump on eBay, now eBay is having great difficulties in gaining a meaningful marketshare and their margins are drastically lower than in other markets. Baidu, the Chinese search engine, won mindshare from the Chinese before Google was able to enter their market, now Google plays second fiddle in one of the world’s largest markets.

We have all seen how the phone has changed communications in Africa drastically. The Web is set to do the same, especially when married up with the mobile phone. Those who labor now to create products that start winning mindshare on the African continent will reap the rewards in the coming years.

Investors and web developers would be wise to pay close attention. Invest now and see just how much money there actually is in Africa. At this point there are two opportunities: 1) own the market (like Alibaba and Baidu), or 2) create the user-base and be bought out by the “big” guys when they wake up.


  1. I see you are VERY determined to make this happen. I see the posibility for some serious expansion in the areas of media access and and content archives. You are right about the untapped market…

  2. Hey, email me. I wanted to ask you something but can’t locate your email address! Sorry to use the comments for it.

  3. Drat, I was hoping to hear Paypal would be arriving soon in Kenya. Too bad – any alternative platforms i can use?

  4. I’d go for the 2nd option and build up something that could be taken over by the big players once it’s started. Just like Ebay entered the German market (for instance) when it took over Alando.de which was designed with this take-over in mind (screen-design, user interface, etc.).

    I think the most important thing to realize for potential investors is that ppl DO have money they would spend if only they could.

    Like the title of this post…”beating them to the market”….yes, indeed. But then, not everyone in the world ignores Africa as a market. Just see what Lenovo did when it took over IBM’s PC dept. ==> it may not be American investors who make the first step but instead Chinese?

  5. Erik,

    Good post. Africa needs people like you and I, visionaries and calculated risk-takers. Web-related content and it’s offerings are available, but image the possiblities when we have limitless broadband in Africa like South Korea has. I would like to talk to you… I’m involved with a similar ecommerce related project for Africa.

  6. Limitless Broadband in Africa will only happen when the likes of Telkom properly unbundle and allow more players into the market.

    However, I’m in to help create AfriPay. Good working title. Yes?

  7. Afripay – very nice name. Count me in…plz

  8. Yet another great post Eric!!
    I agreee 100% with everything you said.
    Well, I was only supposed to be in Kenya for a week back at the end of Nov-2005, and I’m still here. When I got here, I just saw tons of business opportunities EVERYWHERE due to INEFFICIENCIES that Info Tech can answer. Hopefully, the Internet infrastructure will mature sooner rather than LATER so that Africa can be transformed once and for good.

    – Max

  9. Robert, great name. I like AfriPay, I wish it was available as a domain though… 🙂

    Like Max said, the opportunities in Africa are there – most of the time all that is needed is someone to fund the development of the platform for it to take off. The programmers are there, they just need to be utilized in the right type of project.

  10. we are all working hard to see that the continent joins the rest of the world on the internet market. Africa has a big place and a great role to play in this domain. Keep the faith

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