16 key points about smartphones, apps and mobile web in Africa

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Africa mobile market

I was invited to participate as an expert witness at the Great Mobile Debate at Social Media Week, Lagos yesterday. Emeka Okoye (CEO, Vikantti, Nigeria) went up head-to-head against Matthew Dawes (Founder, AllAmber, U.K.). It was a very interesting event that sought to inform by way of debate. And, it was indeed informative.

Here are 17 key points from both my submissions and the submissions of other participants at the debate:

  1. Today’s African mobile market is a mobile web market with much greater reach than mobile apps
  2. Africa remains a feature phone market
  3. As far as the smartphone market is concerned, Africa is largely an Android market, but BlackBerry smartphone users are the most loyal segment
  4. Smartphone penetration in Nigeria, Africa’s largest and most vibrant mobile market, is less than 10%. The other subscribers are all on feature phones
  5. Lower cost of smartphone acquisition and cheaper mobile internet will drive greater adoption of smartphones and consequently apps in the African market
  6. I personally say that when smartphones drop to as low as N5,000 to N6,000, penetration will explode
  7. I also submit that the sweet spot for mobile internet for the average person will be N500 for 1-2GB of data monthly
  8. Mobile web browsers are getting smarter and so delivering richer and richer experiences
  9. Heavily interactive platforms are better implemented with mobile apps
  10. Basic apps can be delivered to many feature phones via Java
  11. Mobile websites leverage on Semantic Web, Search and SEO much better, and so are more easily discoverable, than mobile apps
  12. The average life span of a smartphone in Nigeria is 1.5 years
  13. The vast majority of app developers do not make anything close to covering their development costs
  14. Mobile web reaches all platforms and at much lower execution costs
  15. If you need to reach the middle class and upper income earners with interactive services tailored to them, chances are that an app is what you need. Still increase your success rate by combining mobile web with your mobile app, even if only as a download point for your app, to leverage the benefits of mobile web.
  16. If you want the greatest reach now – right now – mobile web should be your first strategy; do apps later. Most success stories in the African landscape follow this pattern.

If you are going to be delivering services to mobile subscribers in Africa, or you are in the development field, be sure to take note of the above points.

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