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Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Tag: online

Africa: The 2nd Safest Continent to Surf the Web

Here’s an interesting study by AVG on internet security, asking “Where in the World are you most likely to be hit by a malicious computer attack or virus?”.

Apparently, and surprisingly to me, the answer is “not Africa” or South America.

“During the last week of July, AVG researchers compiled a list of virus and malware attacks by country picked up by AVG security software. This means we have compiled data from over 127 million computers in 144 countries to determine the incidence rates of virus attacks by country.”

Dirk Singer, of AVG sent over the list of African countries, here they are country-by-country. As you can see, sub-saharan Africa is compatively ‘safe’ compared to other areas of the World. Your chances of being attacked while surfing the web in each country are:

North Africa

  • Egypt 1 in 62.4
  • Algeria 1 in 86.9
  • Libya 1 in 87.7
  • Mauritania 1 in 92.4
  • Tunisia 1 in 110.7
  • Morocco 1 in 112.1

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Mali 1 in 49.9
  • Sudan 1 in 53.9
  • Nigeria 1 in 67.5
  • Benin 1 in 76.6
  • Ghana 1 in 99.4
  • Ivory Coast 1 in 101.5
  • Gabon 1 in 113.1
  • Angola 1 in 129.7
  • Botswana 1 in 134.4
  • Ethiopia 1 in 135.8
  • Senegal 1 in 140.6
  • Uganda 1 in 153.6
  • Liberia 1 in 153.8
  • Burkina Faso 1 in 163.4
  • South Africa 1 in 172.3
  • Tanzania 1 in 180.6
  • Kenya 1 in 216.1
  • Zambia 1 in 262.2
  • Mozambique 1 in 263.8
  • Zambia 1 in 262.2
  • Namibia 1 in 353.1
  • Togo 1 in 359.4
  • Niger 1 in 442.0
  • Sierra Leone 1 in 696.0

Keep in mind, this was over one week and it also doesn’t point directly towards where the attacks are originating from. Interesting data though, and not what I would have expected to see.

A Mobile Payment Trifecta in Kenya

Kenya is quickly gaining a competitive advantage in the mobile payments space. Led by mobile operator giant Safaricom with their Mpesa product, the market locally sees huge value in mobile money transactions. Add to that a regulatory system that is relaxed enough for innovation to be encouraged, and you have a great space for interesting things to happen.

Pay.Zunguka

The team at Symbiotic always have more than one iron in the fire. I was surprised by their most recent release of a new product called Pay.Zunguka last week. Simply put, it’s a payment gateway and aggregator, allowing merchants, developers and content providers a way to monetize their work with the public.

There are two sources of inspiration in Pay.Zunguka (guys, we need to talk about names at some point…), that is the ability for people to utilize international online payment methods like PayPal and Google Checkout, but more importantly that users here in Kenya can do it all without a credit card, only using their phones. That’s a big deal, and it’s a nod towards recognizing that credit cards aren’t necessary, we can bypass that mess.

Mbugua Njihia, CEO of Symbiotic, tells me that their plan is to first integrate with content providers and create an easy-to-use micropayment space, charging 3% per transaction. This will be followed by a partnership campaign to work with larger organizations who don’t have an efficient payment platform for consumers.

PesaPal

PesaPal I’ve written about before. It’s a mobile payment gateway as well, but one with a specific focus online. Liko and team have made great headway recently, but not just in the technology, which is critical. They’ve made headway in some other important areas, funding and marketing.

We’ve talked about the need for local investors to buy into local technology startups. When that doesn’t happen, the international ones swoop in and take advantage of local investor myopia. In this case, PesaPal is receiving a healthy seed capital investment for scaling and marketing. With cash flow happening right now, it’s a good time to invest, and I’m glad to see someone doing so with this team.

I talked to Liko yesterday about this. Their strategy has shifted somewhat since last year, instead of just focusing on web merchants, the PesaPal team is working on relationships with educational institutions and educational book suppliers to make parents lives easier when their child starts the school year. The parent can now pay their child’s school fees using Mpesa or Zap, and then are directly linked to the list of that year’s books with the option to buy them too, and have them delivered to the school for their child’s first day. Brilliant!

This is the kind of fresh thinking that is great to see coming from tech startups: they’re not thinking or selling the tech, they’re selling a solution to a problem.

Zynde

Zynde is a new player in the space, but you’ll start to see a pattern here when you jump over to their website. Because none of the large companies are addressing the very real need for agnostic payment gateways the market is filling in that gap for them.

A quick email chat with David Kagiri of Zynde gave me more insight into their focus behind the service:

“My main driver was that new technologies existed that could enable me deliver cost effective solutions. After interaction with owners of small businesses I realized that most don’t keep track of their business finances and the cost of the available off shelf software that would help them with that was beyond their reach. I came up with a simple solution that uses the SaaS (software as a service) model so that I could deliver cost-effective solutions to them and an API that will enable creative developers to extend it to multiple mobile platforms and reach the masses.”

Zynde will have to prove themselves in what is quickly turning out to be a highly competitive space with competent players.

Maduqa: Online Shops for Every Kenyan

Maduqa is a fledgling web startup in Nairobi. Their goal: make it simple, fast and easy for any Kenyan business owner to get their own store online in just a few minutes. Surprisingly, there’s nothing else out there quite like this (that I’ve seen), so it’s an excellent example of local entrepreneurs taking ideas from the global stage and localizing them to Kenyan needs.

It’s a simple website, with a focus on two things. First, it’s online shops for ordinary businessmen, whether you operate out of your house, a duka or a business frontage. Second, it’s a classifieds listings site.

There’s a lot of draw in figuring out how to crack the Kenya classifieds market, and the web is littered with a dozen mediocre attempts at this from Craigslist to the Nation Media Group, much less the everyday sites that others throw up. In this case, I think it’s a diversion from what should be the focus: online shops.

We’re starting to see more Kenyans paying attention to the web-side of their business. For most, that just means that they know the internet is out there and might be valuable in attracting customers. Those are your medium and upper-class businesses. The upper-class ones will go out and design their own websites, Maduqa isn’t for them.

Instead, Maduqa is for the businessman doesn’t have any marketing budget to speak of, she might be a hairdresser or a person running their business at night from their home. They don’t have the time, energy or know-how to setup a store on their own, but they could set up a Maduqa site. It’s free too, so the cost of failure is low. Your worst case scenario is that you are finally searchable by name online.

There is a small team of individuals who are going around and trying to sign up new businesses into the site. It’s analog, and not nearly as efficient as if you were running a pure viral or digital marketing campaign, but then their target end-user probably wouldn’t see those anyway. Any other type of marketing is even more expensive and untenable for this bootstrapping startup.

So, let’s say they have three guys walking around town trying and they each aim for 15 new Maduqa shops online each day, that’s 45 shops per day total. Not bad, especially if you extrapolate that out to 20 working days per month with a total of 900 online stores per month added to the website. In three months they would have 2700 online shops.

Now we’re talking some serious mass. Maybe even enough to get on the radars of consumers, especially as all the marketing for the store websites will be done by the store owners themselves, as they tell everyone about their new website.

I met up with Kachwanya, one of the duo behind the site and walked through the site with him, discussing both the pros and cons of this type of service and the site itself. Here is a quick rundown of what I liked/didn’t like, keeping in mind that it’s an early-stage website.

What I like

  • Anyone can setup an online shop now. Conceptually, this is very easy to grasp.
  • Nice use of javascript and overlays that make the site easier to use.
  • There is a team of Maduqa reps going around and signing up new business owners.
  • The potential to take over the online stores market in a country.

What could be improved

  • Scrap the classifieds, stick to one thing: online shops.
  • Let’s see PesaPal (or its equivalent) instituted on this site. I can see no better win-win situation for Maduqa, the end users or PesaPal than this kind of partnership.
  • Parts of the site look nice, but it also feels a little cluttered, some design and usability tweaks would help.
  • Get more feet on the street, sign up more businesses and get up to critical mass even faster.

I’m impressed by this simple and workable concept. They have the technical acumen to do it, there is no doubting that. Will they have the business acumen to balance? Time will tell if they will pull this off, but I’m optimistic that they can.

Online Shopping Services for the African Diaspora

There are more and more services popping up created for Africans living abroad to shop and deliver commodities to their relatives in their home country. As covered in a previous story, the sub-Saharan African remittance market is about $20 billion annually, so it only makes sense for more tech-smart businessmen to tap into this.

The lack of any cost-effective traditional money transfer service has also played a part in the creation of this financial back-channel. Africans in the diaspora can buy (or send) a wide variety of goods and services including; airtime minutes, flowers, cakes, school fees, shopping vouchers, etc… the list goes on.

Below are a couple of these websites and their respective country:

iCare – Uganda
iCare - Uganda online shopping

Happysend – Cameroon
Happysend - Cameroon online shopping

Akyedie – Ghana
Akyedie - Ghanaian online shopping

MamaMikes – Kenya
MamaMikes - Kenyan online shopping

Zimbuyer – Zimbabwe

I’m sure there will be more innovation and interesting sites building out in this place throughout the continent. In fact, I’m sure I’ve missed a great deal of the sites that are already out there. If there is a site that you think I have missed, add it to the comment area below.

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