Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Tag: sudan

InMobi and Mobile Advertising in Africa

India is watching Africa closely, especially after the big $10.7bn move by Bharti Airtel to take over Zain’s Africa operations. Yesterday Ankit Rawal, head of advertising for inMobi in Africa, spoke at the iHub. He spent a good amount of time explaining why Africa was so important to their growth strategy, and used a good bit of data from an InMobi research project to show why.

Ad Impressions

From their July 2010 statistics, Africa has over 2.8 billion mobile ad impressions available, an 18.5% growth from just one month before (June 2010). That’s an amazing figure, and amazing growth, by anyone’s standards. Only 16% of that inventory is on smartphones.

InMobi’s largest African markets, in order, are: South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Sudan, Libya, Nigeria. There is a big difference between these countries and some of the others that we saw stats for. For instance, Mozambique, Tanzania, Angola and Namibia have only about 20-40 million impressions/month. There is a wide gap between Africa’s tech leaders and the rest of the continent.


Continent-wide, the most popular manufacturer is Nokia at 61.3%, followed by Samsung at 21.8%, with SonyEricsson a distant third at 6.3%. Those aren’t especially surprising figures, but if you dig down into the country details provided for South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, they differ.

  • In South Africa, it’s 38% each for Nokia and Samsung
  • In Kenya, it’s 66% Nokia and 18% Samsung
  • In Nigeria, it’s 78% Nokia and 9% SonyEricsson

Operating Systems

Important information for mobile app developers and businesses is which operating system to focus on. Nokia OS and Symbian lead, followed by RIM. No Android, iPhone or Windows Mobile mentioned, though there is a suspiciously large (37%) chunk of the pie for “other”.


The actual devices that people are using that show mobile advertising is interesting as well. It’s largely Nokia, holding 7 of the top 10 spots, with Samsung carrying the other 3. The top device, is the moderately priced Nokia N70 is a popular, though unpretty, “do it all” phone.

Other Information

Not available in the qualitative research document provided by InMobi, but part of Ankit’s talk yesterday, were some other demographic statistics.

Male acceptance of mobile advertising in Africa is the highest in the world, when asked, “How comfortable are you with mobile advertising?”. African women came in second behind Asia on that same question. Women in South Africa were the clear outlier compared to Nigeria and Kenya, with only 45% comfortable with mobile ads.

Africa’s under 25 population has the highest comfort level with mobile ads in the world. 75% from this age range are okay with mobile ads, as opposed to 67% in Europe, 73% in the US and Asia.

South Africans are more interested in ads when top global brands appear as ads. The primary benefit of mobile ads that all consumers are looking for is “new information”.

Final Thoughts

Africa, as a whole is well positioned to see a huge growth in mobile advertising. This comes from a combination of consumer acceptance of mobile ads being the highest in the world, healthy support via increased data plan competition among telcos, growth in 3g and smartphone adoption, and mobile screen mindshare amongst users.

Digitizing Africa: Starting with the Dirt

I was completely fascinated when I heard about the African Soils Information Service (AfSIS) and their goal of gathering detailed digitized soil samples from 42 countries in Africa. That’s a huge project, and it’s propped up by grants from the Gates Foundation and AGRA.

African Soils

Unlike many of you, I have little knowledge of farming and have no agrarian pastimes. So, though the mapping and techie side of me thinks it’s really a neat project, I didn’t know why it was needed. Apparently, one of the biggest problems with food scarcity in Africa is lack of knowledge on soil degradation and the low-yielding crops that these areas generate. This information is critical to identify the types and amounts of mineral and organic nutrient sources needed to increase crop yields.

Digging deeper

I started trying to find out more about soil mapping in Africa, and came across the European Digital Archive of Soil Maps. It turns out they have an amazing number of scanned geological maps for almost every African nation.

I decided to look up my childhood stomping grounds of Kapoeta, a dusty (tiny) town in the Equatoria Province of Southern Sudan. Sure enough, I found a hydrogeological map (circa 1989) with some good information:

Hydrageological map of Southern Sudan - Kapoeta

It turns out that Kapoeta is a bit of an anomaly, in that you won’t find too many areas in Southern Sudan with as much geological diversity. It’s just off the major flood planes, and it there are 3 different types of hydrageological structures within the area. The local Taposa tribe stores their wealth in cows, but they do grow some millet.

Though that data means very little to me, in the right hands it can make the difference between a large annual millet yield, or possibly even the introduction of a new crop that locals didn’t know about. It’s in places like Kapoeta that this project will see it’s true potential.

Digitizing Africa

I was happy to see the following quote in the press release:

“All soil information will be collected and made available via the Internet in a user-friendly manner. AfSIS experts will offer training to agricultural extension agents and others on how to interpret and translate information provided by the soil map for practical application.”

As we get more open and available data on Africa – be it soil, vote counts or census information – more value added services will be created. Businesses can grow up around both the data collection and its use. More importantly, with the use of other tech tools, I think we’ll find that the information that is aggregated and then acted upon, will start to make it’s way back into the hands of those who need it for their daily living. This soil project just might be a greater thing than we realize.

Tackling Language with Technology in Africa

My parents were linguists, they worked to create a written language for the Toposa of southeastern Sudan. From a young age the importance of language was impressed upon me, but it was academic… How many other 8 year olds do you know that are aware that there are 134 distinct Sudanese languages of which 8 are extinct?

Academic understanding of language barriers becomes real-life frustration for me as I try and cover the web and mobile space in Africa. For instance, I’d love to know more about, and do a write-up on the following:

Websites that I find it hard to cover on WhiteAfrican.com

  • Ivoire Blog – The new blogging platform for Cote D’Ivoire
  • Akopo – A social media and blogging platform for Cameroonians
  • Mboasu – A new West African mobile remittance product

However, it’s hard for me to track, contact and write about services like these that are popping up in Francophone or Arabic-speaking Africa, simply because I lack the language skills.

Sometimes I come across what looks to be an interesting blog – usually due to visuals since I can’t read it. I then filter that blog through a tool like Google’s Translation service and get back a nicely garbled bunching of English words that I then work towards deciphering into usable chunks.

Francophone Map of Africa
(did you know that approximately 50% of the African continent speaks French?)

PALDO – An African Language Initiative
These types of thoughts were running through my head, when I got an email about an upcoming meeting (April 2, 2008) and initiative called The Pan-African Living Dictionary Online (PALDO). They are attempting to create an interlinked multilingual dictionary for African languages. It is being built upon the foundation of the well-known Kamusi Project, which developed a useful online Swahili/English dictionary.

PALDO is particularly hoping for participation from programmers, linguists, database experts, lexicographers and past users with experience in other online dictionaries.

Creating local keyboards for African languagesIt’s encouraging to see that this is in partnership with Kasahorow, who is working to solve the problem of localized computer input methods for languages. Basically, create a keyboard that works for multiple language clusters.

A couple years ago I wrote a post about technology versus tribal languages in Africa. It’s a HUGE hurdle to overcome when creating web and mobile platforms that you would like to take to the whole African market. It’s why so many companies do great stuff in their local market, maybe even their region, but fail getting pan-African adoption.

It’s unclear how PALDO will solve some of these issues. However, I’m always interested in seeing how aggregation and visualization of data can be used to create better products, or bring insight into areas where things are so confused.

One thing is for sure though, PALDO won’t solve my personal communications issues – what I need to do is go learn French and re-learn Arabic.

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