Where Africa and Technology Collide!

South African Tech: A Tale of Two Success Stories

There are a number of technology companies from South Africa that have had no small amount of success. I want to take a minute to highlight two of them though, because I think they show something important.

The decision you have to make when deciding to create a technology business, a web or mobile application in Africa, is whether it’s something for the local market or international. Very few companies are solving for both. In my examples you’ll see Mxit, a company solving for a local problem, and Synthasite, a company solving for an international problem.

For those who don’t know, Mxit created a java-enabled chat application for mobile phones that decreases the cost per message compared by ~90% of a normal SMS message. They have over 7.5 million users after just a few years in action, and are the staple communication system for young mobile users in South Africa. It’s a phenomenon, and they’re looking to expand internationally.

Mxit Users in South Africa

Synthasite is the free web site creator and publishing platform, designed and created in the mold of any Web 2.0 app coming out of the Silicon Valley. Vinny, the founder, tells me that they have over 70k users and are increasing that by 1000 each day – which puts them as one of the top 3 services like this in the world. They have just moved 1/3 of their operations to San Francisco, with 2/3 of the company still in Cape Town.


Both of these companies had completely different strategies: local and global. These companies serve to prove that any developer in Africa with a good idea that solves a problem, and has the drive to see it through, can be incredibly successful. It’s inspiring, and I hope that more of Africa’s web developers will see the opportunities all around them.

[Image courtesy of Rafiq via Flickr]


  1. Are Mxit planning to expand outwards towards Africa or towards the West? Their service looks like it can be a huge hit throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

  2. Building applications for cell phones in africa i think is a no brainer but there is certainly a huge potential with synthasite for just about anybody.
    Awesome product!

  3. Mwangi – I had a discussion with the director of Mxit, but it was almost one year ago now that I did so. At that time, Mxit was thinking of expanding outside of Africa, not focusing on the African nations north of them.

  4. MXit already works everywhere there is mobile, GPRS/3g i Africa.

    Download it and give it a go wherever in Africa you are.

    Why wait for marketers to tell you to try it when you already can?

  5. Thanks rafiq. Thanks Hash. These are definitely things I will keep in mind next time I visit Africa.

  6. Mwangi. MXit works where you are now too. Where are you ?

  7. The land down under – Australia

  8. mxit is not without its problems in the social context, with many users unaware of predators.

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