Mobile Phones as Platform in Africa

TradeNet LogoIt’s good to see larger news publications pointing out that the mobile phone is the platform for communication in Africa. This time it’s the Economist, where they cover TradeNet, one of the most exciting platforms to come out of Africa that I’ve seen.

Mobile Phone Usage in AfricaMobile-phone use in sub-Saharan Africa is soaring. Whereas only 10% of the population had network coverage in 1999, today more than 60% have it, a figure expected to exceed 85% in 2010, according to the GSM Association, an industry trade group. This provides the infrastructure for businesses like TradeNet to function.

Any long time reader here will know that I believe that the mobile platform is the only real platform for mass market communication efforts in Africa. Whether that’s with eCommerce, payment services, information, news or entertainment. More and more companies are coming out with new applications designed specifically for usage by Africans.

TradeNet is more than just a copycat of some other software, it’s a new take on how to communicate and foster trade in Africa. Not just that though, it has a business model. It’s not just an development agency, it’s a business that’s here to stay. That’s huge. It’s a big idea that is actually being executed on.

[Update: Ethan has a great write-up on this as well]

6 thoughts on “Mobile Phones as Platform in Africa

  1. Hash:

    Great post! You and Emeka Okafor( on his similiar post) have summed it up so well that there is little for me to add on this subject, other than saying “yes, I agree with you”.

    So here’s a side observation….There is a U.S. based website called http://www.prosper.com. I would imagine that if someone did this in SSA, but using a mobile platform-the upside would reach into infinity…What do you think?

  2. Hey Benin, agreed, Prosper.com has a great application that I think could very easily be utilized and implemented in Africa.

  3. thanks. It’s exactly how we see it. Even though we’ve partnered with public donor projects, and in some ways they’ve been great, they just have no job security! This must be a profitable venture, a service-based venture, a customer focussed venture, and it must unleash what i imagine is loads of commerce opportunities leading to wealth generation. I’m skeptical about technology ‘solving’ things, but it’s one contribution to the debate. We launched today in a marketplace with hundreds of traders… I’m not sure they really understand yet how they can make money from this… but we’re getting closer and closer to them adopting it. Already some impressive success stories are emerging. We have to be cautious however that the short term will show gains by the tech savvy…

  4. Mark, that’s where I am in complete agreement with you.

    I strongly believe that the real lasting development is only possible through “for-profit” enterprises. We’ve all seen the well-meaning development agencies come and go (and a few do have lasting impact, I’m speaking in generalities here), but it’s the businesses that grow in a community that make the difference over the long haul. They provide jobs, they increase the standard of living and they open up new possibilities for other entrepreneurs.

  5. Great Post – yup mobile is the immediate future of SA comms and advertising (to approach it from a commercial point of view.) Slow broadband adoption and prohibitive technology costs will see the web take up a lot slower in SA but it will come!

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