WhiteAfrican

Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Tag: south africa (page 2 of 6)

Motribe: The Mobile Web Community Builder

The Mobile Web is the future of mobile apps, and it’s not surprising to see Vincent Maher and Nic Haralambous, from South Africa, on the front end of it. Motribe is a simple community building platform for the mobile web. You can easily get a site up and going in an hour that allows chat, photo sharing, private messaging and mobile blogs.

That bit about the mobile web is important, since it means you can browse to it on most phones, and you don’t need a special app for it built on all the smartphone platforms, like iPhone, Android, Ovi, WinMo and Bada – as in, there’s one less barrier to entry.

I asked Vincent why he chose mobile web, his response:

“Mobile is the killer internet platform for Africa, but also the rest of the world. We have found that our younger users prefer using an ipod touch to surf the web than a PC. Motribe works on 4000 devices (or more) and the Motribe plan is to change the way people use social networks in emerging markets.”

Initial funding was raised 4DI Capital, and they’ve got a clear business strategy, which is to sell their product. Pricing ranges from $10 to $50, and each level gives you a greater ability to customize and “own” the mobile social network that you’ve built. There is also an enterprise level available for bigger brands and companies. Motribe also has a free plan with core features and a 100-user limit for you to get started quickly.

Its built on Amazon EC2, S3, RDS and Cloudfront using PHP, Codeigniter, Google Charts, JQuery and Cassandra. Vincent stated that, “Cassandra is the most interesting of the components because its going to be the key to scaling to millions of users.”

Giving it a Test Run

I went ahead and signed up to give Motribe a whirl. My test site is AfriGadget.Motribe.mobi, where I’ll put up some stuff from AfriGadget and see if a community grows around it. Just getting going, I can see that a lot of attention has been put behind this platform (as would be expected with veterans like Vincent and Nic).

Some notes:

  • Signup: done easily, nice little touch to provide a QR code directing to a URL for login.
  • Setting up a community: simple, see image below.
  • Access code: for when you want only certain people to join
  • Test mode: for making sure your community is setup right before it goes live
  • Themes: many simplified stock themes available out of the box.
  • QR code generator: there’s a neat QR code generated for the URL of your new site. (Would be nice to have this as an embed code for websites)

There are a couple example sites already going – emofwendz.com is the one they ran for the pilot, and it has some fantastic engagement stats, like an average of over 100 pages viewed per visit (the norm for web sites is about 5) and average visit lengths of around 60 minutes. Today, Vincent said, an Afrikaans-language site was created for Christians http://ekerk.motribe.mobi, its a good example of exactly what they people to do with the platform.

Some Thoughts

If there’s any platform that’s come out of Africa in the last year that fills a global need, it’s Motribe. I won’t be surprised to see this go big at all.

There are always teething pains, experimentation and adjustments when a new platform goes live. I found a few issues, like when I went to upload my logos they threw a bug (I was a pixel off on the size, thus the issue). Not unexpected in a brand new platform, and I’m sure it’ll be fixed shortly.

I wasn’t able to test out the “Custom URL” and “Advertising Manager” features, though I would like to see how each is implemented. It might be worth having a section on the website to preview at least the Advertising Manager in more detail to see if it’s worth upgrading to.

There isn’t any SMS functionality yet, and I’m not sure there needs to be either. As Vincent said, “we don’t have a need for SMS right now but we may well integrate SMS at a later stage depending on whether we can find some good uses for it.”

Worth reading: other posts by TechCentral and the Daily Maverick.

Mocality: Mobile Business Listings for Africa

It’s not often that you hear of a tech startup from South Africa who chooses to build and deploy their product to Kenya first. In fact, I’ve never heard of such a thing. However, that is just what is happening with Mocality, a mobile and web-based business listings and directory application built for Africa.

Mocality’s job: create a digital platform that makes it easy for business owners to promote and expand their businesses in Africa.

“As a business owner, you get free SMS, a contact list, a free mobile website and a free mobile business card.”

Mocality represents this change in the paradigm that we’ve seen coming on for years in Africa. An application built agnostic to the client platform (mobile phone or PC), where data is fed into whatever you use in a meaningful way. Where the mobile usage is just as rich as the PC use.

In fact, they’ve studied usage of mobile phones on their system and have seen the usage of smartphones to be so negligible as to not matter. As CEO Stefan Magdalinski says, “This is the Mocality reality: RIM, Android, Apple are 2% of usage.”

About the Team

Successful startups generally have great leaders, Mocality has that. Stefan Magdalinski (@smagdali) is a seasoned web veteran and entrepreneur, co-founder of Moo.com and an early entrant into the programming space in England in the mid-90’s, and just recently relocating to South Africa for Mocality. They have plenty of funding, from MIH, a subsidiary of Naspers Group (who has been eying Kenya with recent forays such as Kalahari and Haiya).

I’ve met with Stefan in Kenya and South Africa, and I’ve also had the chance to meet some of the members of his team here in Nairobi. The impression that I’m left with is that this is a serious startup, with plenty of funding and a great vision and a strategy put in place to pull it off.

How it Works

Mocality is built for Kenyan businesses that don’t have enough money (or value to gain) to advertise in a print directory.

Again, a paradigm shift. They’re saying that they don’t care about the big end of the power law of distribution (the big companies), only the longtail (small, marginalized businesses). This is apparent in the images below of their typical user:

  • SMS, WAP & Web tools (now J2Me, iPhone)
  • Businesses can self list
  • Geo-coding All business locations
  • Map view of business
  • Business toolkit:
    1. Add customers & suppliers
    2. Send bulk messages (400 free SMS monthly) (but with anti-spam controls)
    3. Send mobile business card
    4. Add details (e.g. Menus, Special Offers)
  • Website, google optimised (white hat only)

Important to business owners in this segment is that the platform is free. Services will be added to the platform over time that business owners can pay for, but currently the only cost to them is data or SMS usage on their own mobile phone to access Mocality.

Scaling using the Crowd

Initially, the Mocality team walked all over Nairobi getting businesses to put their listings on the platform. They were successful, and in about 6 months of hard work were able to get approximately 11,000 businesses listed. That’s good, but barely puts a dent in the number of companies operating in this city.

The team then launched a crowdsourcing option, where they experimented with allowing anyone in Nairobi to add their own (and other’s) businesses to Mocality, and they got paid a bounty to do so. Within the last 6 weeks they have as many listings entered as the previous 6 months. If you live in Nairobi and want to become an agent, you need a WAP-enabled cameraphone and only need to visit http://www.mocality.com/money.

That’s impressive, but the impact is even more apparent when you look at the visualization:

If you have a business in Nairobi, you can get your listing onto it by visiting www.mocality.com email to info@mocality.co.ke or SMS callme to 2202 from within Kenya.

Mxit is Imported into Kenya

Mxit is a massive mobile social network that was started in South Africa a couple years ago. Today, Safaricom announced a partnership with them, using their marketing muscle (7 pages of ads in today’s newspaper) to import Mxit into Kenya.

Mxit launches in Kenya

[For the time being, we’ll ignore the complete ripoff of Twitter in their marketing...]

Mxit is a free instant messaging platform that uses the data network, thereby making it cheaper per message than sending an SMS. They claim 19 million users, most a younger demographic, who spend time chatting with friends or in chat rooms. MXit also supports gateways to other instant messaging platforms such as MSN Messenger, ICQ and Google Talk.

Mxit user growth

Local apps and entrepreneurs react

This should be a slap in the face to Kenyan programmers and tech business entrepreneurs. The model to build the same type of mobile social network has been openly working and available to do for at least three years.

To be fair, Mbugua and the Symbiotic team tried to create something like this a year ago, called Sembuse. Both he and Idd Salim aren’t very happy about this latest move, claiming that Kenyan entrepreneurs can’t get the same access or opportunities as their South African counterparts.

From Mbugua:

“The issue is not that they have a partnership with Mxit but that from personal experience, local developers and companies suffer greatly in their quest to have such partnerships.”

From Idd:

“Most likely, the marketing retards at Safcom were convinced to believe that Mxit will increase data ARPU for Safcom. Mxit is meant to be a replacement to SMS. … So Instead of sending an SMS, you will use Mxit. Safaricom will lose KSHS 3.5 per SMS, but gain KSHS 0.003 per data exchange over Mxit. Talk of Safaricon Conned! Pwagu amepata pwaguzi.”

The issue with Safaricom

On one side, the Sembuse team have a point. Safaricom has been promising to open up their API and platform for real extension. This has never been fulfilled. They have promised to (honestly) engage with the local programming community, and this hasn’t happened either. They were publicly called out on all of these facts and more at the Mobile Web East Africa conference this year.

In many ways Safaricom walks arrogantly through the Kenyan market, lying, stealing and cheating their way to even larger profits. However, they also push the edges. While others are happy to sit back and make their current margins, Safaricom takes risks and eats their lunch. Innovation, whether it’s home built, bought or stolen still has the same effect.

Business reality

For whatever reason (marketing, value add, etc), Sembuse didn’t catch on – it hasn’t reached critical mass. Numbers of users, rather than technology ability even when it’s better, are the things that larger companies are looking for in this type of play. If you don’t have half a million users, you aren’t even in the game.

Though I’m no Safaricom apologist, I can’t fault them for making a decision to go with a tested product from an established business. Yes, SMS is currently a cash cow, especially here in Kenya. However, everyone can see the writing on the wall: data is the future, and controlling the channel is more important than anything else.

As David Kiania from the Skunkworks list noted, “Rule No. 4 in business: Cannibalize your revenue and business model before your competition does it for you.

I’m more disappointed that no Kenyan company has been able to make a go at this by themselves, just like Mxit did years ago. You don’t need Safaricom or any other mobile app provider to be successful in this space, Mxit if anything, has proven that.

Like I said 2 years ago, this is a sure win if you can pull it off correctly. The technology to do this is not new, as Idd Salim points out as well, neither is the model – so you know that the strategy here is on marketing and communications to show the value add to potential customers.

More than anything else, Kenyan entrepreneurs should be upset with themselves for missing a sure opportunity, not upset with Safaricom for making a good business decision.

Facebook Zero: A Paradigm Shift

Just a week ago I was in Cape Town talking about how entrepreneurs in Africa are looking at the prepaid mobile phone market and are trying to solve for the cost structures for data provided by the mobile carriers. Who knew that internet giant Facebook would beat them to it?

Facebook ZeroThis week Facebook launched 0.facebook.com, where they worked out deals with 50 mobile operators in 45 countries to either zero-rate data costs coming to that URL, or paying that data cost themselves. This means that anyone, even those with no airtime on their mobile phone, can still take part in Facebook.

“Thanks to the help of mobile operators we collaborated with, people can access 0.facebook.com without any data charges. Using 0.facebook.com is completely free. People will only pay for data charges when they view photos or when they leave 0.facebook.com to browse other mobile sites. When they click to view a photo or browse another mobile site a notification page will appear to confirm that they will be charged if they want to leave 0.facebook.com”

Interestingly enough, 5 of the 6 largest Facebook using countries in Africa do not have access to this service yet: Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Kenya.

Top Facebook Countries in Africa

Facebook Zero is launching in these countries

Why this matters

What has happened is that Facebook, even with all of their problems and questionable ethical moves on privacy issues, still have a great strategist with a global perspective in their midst. What they have realized is that the only way to increase penetration in the developing world is to cover the data costs for their users (or, if lucky, snooker a mobile operator into not charging them for it).

I pay for someone to visit this blog. I pay my web hosting fees and that means that you can visit it for free. Almost. Unless you’re on a free WiFi service you still have to pay your ISP to connect to the internet. This is akin to me paying off your ISP for when you visit my website.

It’s a big deal, and I think we’ll see a lot more of this happening. It raises the bar for everyone else. If you want to play in this league, you now need to pay off the mobile operator for the traffic that goes your way. Meanwhile the mobile operators laugh all the way to the bank – it’s a huge win for them, and a big score for mobile web consumers in the developing world.

A Rising Tide: Africa’s Tech Entrepreneurs

[This post is my talk from NetProphet 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. Keep in mind it was aimed at a crowd that was close to 100% South African, and my purpose was to show what was going on north of the South African border.]

The idea for this talk came from a conversation that I had with a programmer that I met in Jo’burg when I first visited 3 years ago. After a talk that I gave, he told me, “Someday I’d like to visit Africa.” As you can imagine, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.

Now, I think he meant this Africa

I would rather speak to you about this Africa

This map color codes countries by their level of internet penetration. As you can see, all of Africa has a fairly poor internet penetration rate compared to the rest of the world.

South Africans sometimes forget that they are a part of a much larger continent, choosing to align themselves closer with far-away Europe than their bordering countries, and they miss all types of opportunities due to this.

So, when Tim asked me what I wanted to talk about at NetProphet this year, I thought it a great opportunity to highlight some of the entrepreneurs and opportunities that lie just north of this great country.

Most of us look at this map and say, “that’s pathetic”. A few say, “blue ocean”, a completely untapped market ripe for the picking.

I’d like to start off then by telling you about two people, Karanja and Fritz, who are of the latter type, and they’re making good money working in this market. First mover advantage in the tech space has always been a key, and their early inroads into the space position them perfectly for taking advantage of a growing mass of consumers.

A story of 2 entrepreneurs

Karanja Macharia is the founder and CEO of Mobile Planet, a mobile company in Kenya that provides third party services to both the main mobile providers and other corporate clients. They’ve been around for a number of years, Google invested in them 2 years ago, and most importantly, they’re profitable.

I carry around a Nexus One and an iPhone. Karanja carries around a Nokia 1600, the cheapest data-enabled phone you can buy ($25). Why? He does this so that he understands what his customers need and use. His clients aren’t your upper-class Blackberry toting professionals, they’re the “wananchi” (the ordinary person).

It takes a paradigm shift in the understanding of people, culture and spending habits to tackle this market. It’s not a population that understands the PC-web in the same way that you, me or anyone from the West does. It takes a different perspective, and a different type of entrepreneur.

In Kenya, approximately 40% of mobile users don’t keep a balance on their mobile phone. This means, they might top up with 10-20 Ksh from time to time to keep their phone active, but most of the time they have the phone for people to call them. At the same time, there’s a burgeoning opportunity and demand for mobile web content. So, the question is, how do you get that 40% active on the web with the current pre-paid model in Africa, where everything has a cost?

Talking to someone like Karanja is an eye opener, you quickly realize how deftly he wields his knowledge of mobile consumers in Kenya against the realities of the mobile operator’s business culture and the “freemium” pricing of the web as it too grows in penetration here.

Karanja represents this new technology entrepreneur in Africa. He’s a seasoned businessman, not some wet behind the ears University student. Karanja understands cash flow and business management, as well as the differences between a PC-web based culture and the mobile-base culture that is sub-Saharan Africa.

_______

Fritz Ekwoge is the founder of iYam.mobi, he too comes from a professional background, though as a programmer and developer, not pure business. He represents a different type of entrepreneur, a younger generation that knows and cares about the web world beyond his Cameroonian borders, and tries to figure out how the two can work together.

Last year I wrote about his first application, iYam.mobi, which is a mobile phone based mobile directory. It works off of the assumption that no one using it ever touches a PC and therefore won’t need it when they look for contact information of service providers via an SMS command to the server. It’s simple, and it works. Fritz has taken the original iYam.mobi ‘mobile mobile’ directory concept and run with it.  It’s evolved into a generalized SMS-based content publishing platform with virtual currency that anyone can use to create and consume local content services.

That application has been rewritten and is now onto another application that might be even more interesting. Fritz has created a new SMS Apps Store at iYam.mobi, and his company has been named FeePerfect. Fritz is in the process of obtaining his VAS (value added services) license.  The platform is undergoing testing and will be released as private beta next month.

Fritz represents this new technology entrepreneur in Africa as well. He’s done his time at firms like PriceWaterhouseCooper, sees the digital landscape both internationally and in Cameroon, and realizes the opportunities available in his home market that are difficult for outsiders to bridge.

Many people claim that, “the future isn’t SMS” with too many limitations and a horrible cost structure. That might be true. However, it’s also the present reality. What Fritz understands is that you build for what people need, not for what tech pundits in the West and upper class Africans idealize about.

Why do these stories matter?

Both Fritz and Karanja come from completely different backgrounds. Business, culture and technological penetration vary greatly between Cameroon and Kenya. In one, you’re not surprised to hear of entrepreneurial success and innovative thinking while in the other you do wonder about the consumer-side viability of mobile or web-based products.

I believe these stories are important because they take us outside of our comfort zones. We are forced to come to the realization that our understanding of the business potential of technology entrepreneurs in Africa is far greater than we had thought. We consistently underestimate the viability of consumer markets in Africa because we do not truly understand the customer there.

One other point I’d like to make on entrepreneurs. Justin Spratt wrote an excellent piece on the new Memeburn site, called “10 Lessons for Founders“. In one of his last paragraphs he talks about the Ideal Founder. All of these same traits are clearly visible in the new tech entrepreneur in Africa, so they’re not that different than their Western counterparts on a personality level. Where they do differ is in their understanding of how to bridge their culture and technology.

Where is it happening?

There are a couple major cities that act as hubs for technology innovation in Africa.

  • Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa
  • Nairobi, Kenya
  • Accra, Ghana
  • Lagos, Nigeria
  • Cairo, Egypt

Looking at maps like this and talking to individuals in this space, I tend to disagree that the digital divide is primarily between rich and poor in Africa. My theory is that it’s more urban versus rural than anything else. I do travel quite a bit, and I’ve found that you’re much more likely to see a data-enabled phone in use in the slums of Kampala than in the rural backwoods of Liberia.

These cities are the ones to continue focusing on and encouraging a critical mass of programmers, businesses, universities who focus on tech and funds and investor groups to formulate.

One of the projects that I’ve been heavily involved with since the beginning of the year is a new tech innovation hub in Nairobi, called the iHub. Our goal is to create a nexus point for the tech community in Nairobi.

It’s an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. This space is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers and designers. It is part open community workspace (co-working), part vector for investors and VCs and part incubator.

I’m firmly of the belief that spaces like the iHub in Nairobi, Limbe Labs in Cameroon, Appfrica Labs in Uganda, Banta Labs in Senegal , and a new Geekspace here in South Africa (where there are more) are just the types of place that we need to get behind. These are the places that draw in the interesting people and projects, and they also serve as a filter and trusted intermediary for outside investors and businesses.

Thus far we’ve only seen the first generation of mobile and web entrepreneurs. There are a few good successes stories, but not enough. What these cities represent, and the hubs within them, is a space for that next generation of entrepreneurs to rise up. Locations to look for the newest and best ideas, invest in them, and then help them grow beyond the urban boundaries that pen them in right now.

Finally

Still don’t believe that the Africa north of you is worth taking a look at?

“Kenya is proving more lucrative per subscriber than South Africa for mobile advertising.”

Hearing someone tell me that, from one of the leading mobile advertising networks, was surprising. But, I’m guessing not nearly as surprising for me (who lives in Kenya) as it probably is for you, who live in South Africa.

We have a rising tide of technology beating against our continent’s shores, and it comes as no surprise to me that we have entrepreneurs rising up to meet it.

A Location Based Mobile Adventure Game

This is brilliant. Legends of Echo is a new free Java mobile phone, massively multiplayer role playing, location based game put out by the people behind the Grid in South Africa (Vodacom).

“In the game, the Echo is a parallel virtual universe based on the South African map. Instead of cities and skyscrapers, however, players will find rolling green fields, rocky outcrops and valleys to explore and establish their base.”

The best overviews are found on the News24 Games blog, in an interview with co-creator Nic Haralambous, and on Nic’s own blog (you’ll also want to read what Vincent Maher had to say about it). From what I can tell, without having played it yet, is that it’s a turn-based card-type game. You find loot, do battle and win more loot. Leveling is there, but it’s not as large of a component as expected.

“There are lots of different kinds of weapons, powers and items that you can pick up by moving around the country from city to city, province to province. Each one gives you a slightly different edge in battle.”

On top of the normal game elements, and an indicator that makes me believe that LoE might be better thought-out than most other games, is the fact that they built an economic system into the game from the beginning. Nic states, “There is a currency model built in to the game that allows players to spend airtime in the Echo Marketplace.” That’s a big deal, and it’s not easy to pull off if done right.

Legend of Echo’s graphics and visual appeal can’t be understated. They spent a good deal of time to make this game look and feel like a World of Warcraft competitor, and it shows. Visually it reminds me of Arcanum meets World of Warcraft.

Specs

You’ll need to have a high-end Nokia or Sony Ericsson to play Legends of Echo. I’ve got an old Nokia N95 sitting around somewhere, so my plan is to dust that off and give the game a run when I’m in Cape Town next month.

It also appears that you actually have to be in South Africa to play it, but I’m checking with Nic to see if anyone living in a country that The Grid operates in can play it as well. This is doubtful, as it’s based also on the Afrigis system, which is fairly Southern-Africa specific.

The game is available for free as a Java download to cellphones. To play Legends of Echo, SMS ‘ECHO’ to 33313 (50c/SMS) or visit http://www.legendsofecho.mobi

A teaser video:

Legends of Echo from Cow Africa on Vimeo.

Thoughts from a gamer…

  • It seems that a web-based Java version of this game would be successful, if only because it would allow you to play on whichever device you have handy. Are there any plans for that?
  • How much will LoE go the direction of Foursquare where they really use the location based systems to drive competition and increased game play?
  • I’m impressed that they took the time to create a strong virtual economy.
  • Will a real-world economy of people using real money to buy and sell goods develop online, as we’ve seen in other successful MMO games?
  • You’re supposedly able to “Build special items with unique abilities”. I’d like to know more about the crafting system, as that can be one of the best ways to deepen interaction and make a game more unique.

Quick Hits Around African Tech

South African, Matthew Buckland, has launched Memeburn a site that tracks emerging technology trends and has opinion pieces by key influencers.

Amheric/Ethiopic translations have been launched within Google’s applications.

Freedom Fone, a free and open source IVR (interactive voice response) system, which started out of Zimbabwe, has now launched. You can download v1.5 now.

Afrinnovator has launched a news aggregator for African tech news.

I was interviewed by CNBC about the iHub and Ushahidi.

Panacea, a South African mobile phone company has the first (legit) bridge between Africa and Paypal live on the continent. Finally, at least one country is able to send/receive payments via PayPal.

Kahenya, from Virn, is launching a new ad platform, called Metro, that distributes ads to all of their sites and affiliate sites. They anticipate to start Web Marketing Campaigns from as little as 500 Kenya shillings (

Quick Hits in the African Tech Space

Indian firm Bharti buys up Zain Africa
The biggest news in the African tech space is Bharti’s $10.7 billion purchase of Zain’s African operations, which operates mobile networks in 17 countries in Africa. Apparently, some believe that Africa’s potential makes Zain deal value fair. (Zain’s African countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambiaand Morocco.)

Google continues getting Africa on the map

Google Maps was launched in 30 Sub-Saharan African countries
. That’s an amazing asset for everyone to use, and it’s also an incredible testament to the number of users using their “My Maps” feature, as this is where this data comes from.

On the growth of tech hubs in Africa
Rebecca Wanjiku wrote an article on IDG about, “Tech labs move beyond corporations in sub-Saharan Africa“. She’s a member of the Nairobi iHub advisory group, and has more insight than most in this space.

South Africa’s Design Indaba
It’s happening right now in Cape Town (Feb 24 – 26, 2010). Great design, and great speakers, but I was really intrigued by their kids program.

Location based service launches in Nigeria
StarTrack is a new location based tracking service in Nigeria, Loy Okezie has a good overview of this new service from Starcomms.

Mobile Web East Africa – Stream

[I probably won’t be able to keep this up all day, but I’ll try to blog/stream what’s happening here at Mobile Web East Africa as best I can. Refresh for updates]

It’s day one of the Mobile Web East Africa conference in Nairobi. This is a new conference, started up in South Africa to great success, and now spreading to other regions of the continent.

Paul Kukubo of the ICT Board

Paul Kukubo, of the Kenya ICT Board, is talking about the future of tech in Kenya, and how the government’s aim is to be a major hub for technology in the region. Explaining how the changes in the industry are brought into context for the government’s vision 2030. He talks about mobile payments, digitizing of government documents and processes, developing software standards and the growing tech community within Nairobi.

Paul continues with mentioning how their approach is to influence policy formulation, intellectual property, data protection, linkages to venture capital and basically catalyzing growth in the ICT sector between government, the public and business.

Rick Joubert of Yonder Media

Rick Joubert, from Yonder Media, “the mobile phone is the most ubiquitous consumer device in the world.” He goes on to talk about how the phone is now even more spread through South Africa than radios. There are 2x as many phones as TV sets. There are 6x more mobile phone subscribers than internet users (in South Africa).

Rick defines the Mobile Web this way:

  • Tier 1: The WAP internet
  • Tier 2: The mobile web application internet
  • Tier 3: Web browsing on phone

**Interruption**
PS Ndemo, who I know and like, is going to give a short address. This isn’t cool, as he’s interrupting Rick Joubert mid-talk (and a very interesting one too). Case-in-point for why government needs to get out of the way more than anything else in the technology field… [Yes, I note that this is probably the American viewpoint on equality coming out].

PS Ndemo is talking through how there were 3.5 million internet users in Kenya last year. Now, with the cost of laptops dropping, we now see 500 laptops sold per day (there were only 20k per year sold before).

Kenya also has the digital villages project (Pasha) with the World Bank is seeing long lines of individuals in far off places coming in to try the internet, get on Skype and figure out how to set up email and other services.

PS Ndemo, ever the gracious person, has at least apologized for the interruption and made amends to the speaker and the conference as a whole. There’s a reason I like him… 🙂

**Back to our scheduled program**

“The Apple iPhone is the number one handset on every continent in the world, except… Africa”. The Nokia 3110 and Samsung E250 are the two biggest phones on the continent. The fact of the matter is, the real money is being made in the inexpensive DVD/Nollywood areas, not in the mobile web yet. Services that play to USSD, Voice and SMS are where the real opportunities lie.

Driving forces:

  • Growth in data networks and coverage
  • Mobile data access charges
  • Local content
  • Better quality handsets shipping at the cheapest possible price
  • Mobile wallets, mobile commerce, mobile banking

Business models and monetization routes:

  • Commerce
  • Transactions and financial institutions
  • Content
  • Advertising

Rick projects that the “size of the prize” in mobile advertising is approximately $8 billion per year in Africa.

Rick finishes showing a video from LynxEffect on how consumers see mobile web, the seductive side of it.

Eric Cantor of AppLab Uganda & Grameen Foundation

I wrote about AppLab and their work with MTN and Google last year. Eric wants to talk about a critical look at a critical space, the 95% of the African population that doesn’t own a smartphone.

(Get the full presentation of Eric Cantor’s slides as a PDF)

“There are more people having conferences and running too many pilots around the use of social mobile work than there is real practical applications and scaling of the products in the market.”

Technology: Be Patient
SMS is not the only way. It’s very challenging and very expensive to work with SMS. One way to adjust this focus is into voice – people like people, and want to talk with each other.

Handsets need to evolve. Nokia 1100 vs Java 1680 ($20 vs $60) – we’re waiting on the $40 smartphone.

Eric reminds us that we need to get back to the Four-Ps of marketing. We can’t forget user experience, the services might be serious, but still need to be fun to use. At the AppLab they don’t believe what they hear (because everyone says “yes, this product will be great in our market”). They try to dig deeper, learned from Google, on what customers really want and see what people are really using.

Question time

I’ve asked the question for Eric Cantor about why we’re not seeing very simple data hooks built into some of the USSD and SMS applications running in Uganda. (more on this here: “Should we be building SMS or internet services for Africa?“). Eric agrees that there is a lot of upside in that space, and that they’re trying to push more towards the data channel, but until we start seeing more data-enabled handsets in ordinary people’s hands out in the villages, it’s just not a main priority yet.

Robert Alai asks what is driving advertising growth in South Africa? Is it the large companies, or smaller organizations?
Rick responds saying that it’s large companies trying to reach their customers, from banks to Coca Cola and everyone in between. Businesses build grow in this space to find solutions for that, and that’s primarily small innovative companies (like his own), small nimble startups.

Agatha Gikonda of Nokia East Africa talks about the Ovi Store and the opportunities for local developers to create applications and put them on the store to make money.

Peter Arina of Safaricom

What are we going to do to drive interent usage in Kenya? Some stats:

Mobile users are estitmated at 19.05m subscribers. Kenya population estimated at 40m with 22m being the addressable market (15yo or older).

70% of mobile data users spend less than 20ksh on a monthly basis. Industry data enabled handsets estimated at 5m or 26% of GSM users. Cost of a 3G handset is 3x higher than that of a non-data enabled handset. Computer prices are way too high compared to the disposable income of majority of Kenyans.

“The cost of devices that access the internet is the biggest barrier to entry for ordinary Kenyans.”

Cost of broadband (price) is prohibitive due to infrastructure investment.

Local content – the most popular sites accessed on the Safaricom network is Facebook and YouTube. Limited content which is highly priced, is also a barrier locally. There’s a need for high quality data enabled handsets to get good experience.

Conclusion
Mobile data users estimated to reach 10m in the next five years subject to availability of affordable devices, increase awareness, local content development and drop in data prices. Safaricom is trying to work directly with the manufacturers to get more data-enabled devices into normal Kenyan’s hands.

There is a need for more local content that is relevant at affordable rates. Need for reduction in frequency costs, a creation of daily usage habits among users and a need for the government to remove VAT on modems.

Questions
@Kahenya is asking a question. Safaricom is trying to become more affordable, it’s still the most expensive network in Kenya. It’s still has no fixed rate for the mobile data network access. It doesn’t work for small and medium sized business, is Safaricom doing anything to change this?

Peter Arina says they are trying to be cautious. They’re trying to focus on quality (bull$%@& as they have the worst network connectivity in Kenya). He says that they have plans to reduce the cost of data as well, but he has no details on it.

The Safaricom rep says that their main goal is to provide services to the Wananchi (the ordinary/mass Kenyan). The question remains then, why is the cost so high for all of their services?

Paul Kukubo asks when Safaricom will open up their network for value added services for developers and other companies. He’s wondering why the revenue share is so high here (currently if you partner with Safaricom, they’ll take about 60% of revenues), meanwhile elsewhere in the world, like Japan, give 70% to the developer.

Paul asks about the issue with the networks taking advantage of the developers who are out there who come to them with ideas and new products.

The Safaricom rep states that this is not the case any longer. They partner with MobilePlanet and Cellulant (as examples, but it’s a poor one because they’re established companies now). He says that at first they start off with a big chunk of the revenues, but as the product does better, then the developer will get more of the share.

Basically, we get no straight answers from Safaricom and only promises of better things in the future with no details.

Jose Henriques, Executive Head: Online Product Management, Vodacom South Africa

6.65% of the African population currently uses PC internet. The top ten countries make up 85% of that.

Some more stats:

  • Africa represents 15% of the world population, but only 3.9″% of the world’s PC internet usage.
  • Africa’s PC Internet users have increased by 1359% from 2000 to 2009.
  • The global service revenue generated from subscriptions to mobile internet access are forecasted by Informa Telecoms & Media to rise from $57 billion in 2008 to $120 billion in 2013.
  • Mobile ad revenue is estimated to be at $2 billion by 2014. Total value of marketing spend on mobile to be around $6 billion.
  • Mobile subscription rose from 54 million to almost 350 million between 2003 and 2008.
  • On average there are 60% mobile penetration in the world. In developing countries the figure stands at 48% , which is 8x bigger than in 2000.
  • Lack of fixed-line access will drive huge mobile internet usage and revenues.
  • Vodacom generates 49 million ad impressions per month in South Africa (big opportunity).

(Full presentation by Jose Henriques from Vodacom South Africa)

Questions
What has been defined as a smartphone, is not what we define one as today. How would you define it?
Cheapest data enabled devices are about 2000Ksh in Kenya. Safaricom thinks that these are smartphones.

Mpesa… Why is Safaricom unable to cooperate with and provide third-party access (opening their APIs) to developers in Kenya for Mpesa?

The Safaricom rep says that they are willing to do this, and that they’re hungry for people to come in with ideas and products. No specifics given on this. @TMSruge, the moderator, asks her to provide details on how they are actively trying to seek out and help grow this as there is no API or SDK.

@wanjiku says she’s heard Safaricom saying that they have a tendency to do well with big companies, but holding smaller company money for 3-4 months, hurting their cash flow.

Steve Vosloo asks what types of local content are people really willing to pay for?
The Safaricom rep is out of touch… she states that, “no one is willing to pay anything for mobile content”. This is bunk.

Rick Joubert comes in to state facts on how much money there is being made in South Africa in mobile content, $540 million is the real number just in SA. It’s not whether people will pay or not, it’s whether they find value in local content.

A question was asked of Safaricom, why they don’t open up the ability for third-party service providers to bill consumers? The answer by Safaricom is that they are. (I can’t confirm this)

We have Zap, Mobile Pay, Mpesa, etc… when are we going to have an agnostic system to send/receive money? by @kahenya

MTN rep says to come to Uganda to see this working. It’s there working on the MTN system. It’s a serious issue of not having your payment system to go beyond your own network.

Mpesa is a wall gardened. Kahenya and Teddy Ruge ask when there will be a need to NOT walk around with 3 handsets to send money within each one.

Safaricom states that they can already do this within their system. They lay the blame at the regulators feet for why it hasn’t happened.

**Lunch**

Brett StClair of AdMob

Brett starts by asking, “what is mobile internet?” It’s a website that is built for mobile handsets. Admob puts banner advertisement on these sites. They server 12-14 billion advertisements into this network each month. The man on the street can earn revenues start advertising today. There’s a 60% payout to publishers.

Have access to 53 countries in Africa. Monthly ads serves is 750 million in Africa alone.

African Mobile Web currently has South Africa, Nigeria, Libya, Egypt and Kenya as the top 5. Data prices do have a huge effect on the advertising revenues available in Africa.

Nokia 3110c is the most pervasive phone in the market (3.8%), Samsung E250 is at 3.7% penetration. Top smartphones are the Nokia N70 at 10.8% and then Nokia 6300 at 10.3% and then the iPhone at 8.2%.

Top reasons why South Africa is working:

  • 5 million fixed line internet vs 10 million mobile internet users
  • Strong operator billing infrastructure
  • However, mobile money is not mature yet
  • Early adoption by premium traditional publishers
  • consumers traditionally have had a fast adoption rate
  • Due to vast competition for impressions average CPC pricing grew from $0.03 to $0.27 in a year.

Is Africa next? The rest of the world thinks it is, but we need to get the local people to understand this.

Cheapest inventory in the world is in Africa… global accesss average is $0.03, in Africa it’s at $0.01. Local contet providers will benefit as they understand the local African consumers.

Key to making this work:

  1. 3g network coverage
  2. Cheap data pricing
  3. GPRS enabled handset penetration

What are the opportunities in Africa?
Strong tend to follow the West and South Africa. Paid for content, reliant on operator billing. Free content, which is ad funded. The top publisher types are communities, portals and downloads. The top categories are music, religion (15%), games and brands.

African traffic is made of 54% Nokia handsets, then 18% Samsung handsets. iPhone requests make up 18 million impressions in Africa.

South Africa – Mediatech Africa ‘09

Older posts Newer posts

© 2019 WhiteAfrican

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑