Categories
Articles

20 Important African Startups to Watch

Kenya’s huge success with mobile money and the M-Pesa platform has launched Africa into the startup spotlight.

But African innovation goes way beyond mobile money. Whether it’s ecommerce in Nigera, price comparison in South Africa or mobile advertising in Tanzania, African startups are not only changing their continent, but the world.

1. Saya – Ghana

Chat messaging clients are hugely popular across Africa. Mobile chat app Saya Mobile builds on the success of such services. It works across the iOS, Android, Blackberry and Java platforms, and is a product of the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) based in Accra.

2. Ushahidi – Kenya

Ushahidi, which means “testimony” in Swahili, was initially a website developed to map reports of violence around the 2008 Kenyan election. The company has since evolved to become a tech non-profit that specializes in developing free open-source software for data collection, visualization and interactive mapping.

3. AdsBrook – Ghana

Digital and mobile advertising is big business everywhere, including Africa. AdsBrook provides a network of channels for advertisers to run integrated campaigns. Headed by New York-born Derek Jason Bossman, who relocated to Ghana with his parents as a teenager, the company operates in West Africa and is rapidly expanding across the continent.

4. Gloo.ng – Nigeria

In Lagos, a city of 21 million people with 30,000 more arriving every day, the idea of running an online grocery business seems insane, but Gloo somehow manages to grow. Founder Dr. Olumide Olusanya gave up his medical practice to devote time to building his business. It now employs more than 100 people.

5. Mara Online – Uganda

Mara Online is a family of web and mobile platforms that allow users to communicate, interact and collaborate. Sometimes referred to as Africa’s answer to Skype, the May launch of the company saw a chartered jet fly over Silicon Valley with a Mara-branded banner that read, “It’s Time For Africa.”

6. Aim Group – Tanzania

This digital agency is disrupting the media, marketing and brand space by harnessing social media and traditional communications. The company works with major African brands, such as Vodacom, Castle, Tigo and Ndovu to extend their reach and messaging.

7. PriceCheck – South Africa

As the largest price comparison site in South Africa and Africa as a whole, PriceCheck considers the prices of thousands of products. In May it faced 100,000 other entrants to win the International “App of the Year” at the BlackBerry Live conference in Florida.

8. Iroko Partners – Nigeria

Iroko is the world’s largest distributor of African entertainment, including Nigeria’s huge Nollywood film industry. Launched at the end of 2010, the company has a global audience of more than 6 million users from 178 countries — it’s regularly referred to as “Africa’s Netflix.”

9. biNu – South Africa

BiNu mobile app platform can boost Internet speeds by 10 times, which means even the most basic phones can have smartphone-like capabilities. Its more than 100 channels include social media, news, weather, entertainment and free books. BiNu users can also interact with each other via news feeds, social profiles and messaging.

10. Konga – Nigeria

One of Nigeria’s leading online megastores, Konga is growing rapidly across its mobile and SMS platforms. Founded in the summer of 2012, the company now has 150 employees. It promises to deliver products that range from flatscreen TVs to cosmetics anywhere in the country, within five days.

11. Bozza – South Africa

Backed by HP Ventures, Bozza is a mobile social networking startup aimed at township users. It’s headed by entrepreneur Emma Kaye, who describes the service as “a place to discover and share content, enabling small enterprises in a township environment to collaborate and prosper.”

12. Njorku – Cameroon

Launched in March 2011, the Njorku job search engine helps users find careers across Africa. Active in seven countries, the platform offers free and unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of job listings. The company has already raised seed funding from a business angel in France and a Canada-based technology company.

13. Fawry – Egypt

Fawry is a payment service customers can use through banks, post offices and a nationwide network of retailers. Services range from bill payment to Internet and mobile banking. The company employs 250 people and has already collected more than $220 million.

14. Spinlet – Nigeria

As a mobile music download platform, Spinlet offers media distribution to emerging markets in Africa. It encourages the social aspect of music by making it easy to create and share playlists to friends within the application, while enabling both the purchase and discovery of new music.

15. MXit – South Africa

MXit is Africa’s biggest social network, with 50 million users across more than 3,000 different mobile phones. Users can send free online messages, enjoy multiplayer games, buy music, exchange goods and even trade on the stock market.

16. Dropifi – Ghana

Dropifi users can see data in relation to industry metrics, access demographic and social media profiles of message senders and analyze the real sentiment behind the messages they receive. In May 2013, it became the first African company to join the 500 Startups Accelerator Program in Silicon Valley.

17. ForgiveMeNot Africa – Zimbabwe

ForgetMeNot Africa’s optimizer technology converts Facebook “actions,” emails and chat messages into SMS formats, without connecting to the Internet. The company’s ECONET Wireless Zimbabwe’s eTXT service is a cheaper alternative than a fixed-line Internet connection or most Internet cafés.

18. Jumia – Nigeria

As Africa’s biggest online shopping mall, Jumia operates in Egypt, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Kenya as an “African Amazon.” In March 2013 it received a $26 million investment from Summit Partners, which it will use to expand business to other African countries.

19. moWoza – South Africa

The company’s commerce service focuses on mobile as a delivery platform. Customers can “shop wherever they are, at any time” and register with a licensed agent. When the transaction is complete, both the customer and beneficiary are informed by SMS, which also indicates where the parcel can be collected.

20. Afroes – South Africa/Kenya

Afroes produces applications and content for young people, which contain educational and social messages. It is in development with a series of mobile games and SMS reporting platforms that will form the interactive component of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, “Champion for Children campaign.” In 2012, the company won the prestigious MEF Social Responsibility and Development Award for its Moraba game in London.

 

Source

Categories
Gadgets Mobile

What’s Your BB PIN?

blackberry babes“What’s your BB pin?”

The question is the ultimate social status badge for many young, urban Nigerians. Standing in front of a row of gleaming BlackBerry handsets in a Lagos phone shop, sales assistant Remi Olajuwon explained: “The average Nigerian has a very healthy interest in status and luxury. So if somebody asks for your BlackBerry pin and you don’t have one …” she trailed off with a dismissive flick of her false eyelashes.

Retailing at between $200 (£126) and $2,000 in a country where most live on less than $2 a day, the cost alone made it a status symbol, she added. “People come in to buy one just to show they’ve been promoted.”

Amid sagging sales in Europe and North America, developing markets offer a ray of hope for Research in Motion (RIM), after the maker of BlackBerry posted a $235m loss for the latest quarter. In Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt, Africa’s three biggest economies, BlackBerrys outsold smartphone competitors this quarter. Kenya and Ghana also had buoyant sales, officials said.

Around one sixth of Africa’s 620 million active phone subscribers come from Nigeria. Half of Nigeria’s 4 million smartphone owners use BlackBerrys, and use among the wealthiest segment of society is forecast to increase sixfold by 2016.

“There’s a misconception Africans only want cheap phones [but] Nigeria is a key market for us. We’re seen as an aspirational product,” said RIM regional director Waldi Wepenerlast month, after the company opened its first Nigerian store in Lagos’s computer village, a sprawling haven for tech junkies.

With its image increasingly outdated elsewhere, RIM hopes to capitalise on Nigeria’s twin obsessions with status and communication. BlackBerry-related dramas flood newspapers’ agony aunt pages. On social websites, debate rages as to whether a bride photographed using her phone during her wedding ceremony was reading an e-Bible, or was merely a BlackBerry addict. The Nollywood film industry, whose clunkily named movie titles are a good cultural barometer and include delights such as the “Fazebook Babes” series, has recently spawned the hit multisequel “BlackBerry Babes”. The comedy follows a group of scantily clad university girls obsessed with getting the latest phones.

The popularity of BlackBerrys in Nigeria is partly born of necessity. Erratic internet services and a nonexistent landline network are plugged by unlimited data bundles, costing about £12 a month. Unpredictable phone networks force those who can afford it to own two handsets.

“I already have another smartphone, but I need a BlackBerry pin number to socialise with friends and get babes. BlackBerry has an edge because of the pinging,” George Emeka, a university student said, using the colloquial term for its instant messaging service.

Others are getting more bang for their buck. Yahya Balogun, who lives in a Lagos slum, used eight months of savings to buy a secondhand model. The taxi driver has caught on to the growing number of high-end businesses who advertise and communicate using BlackBerry pin numbers as well as traditional means. “All my clients in [upmarket district] Victoria Island own BlackBerrys. It is a good investment,” Balogun said.

In his rundown district where extended families squeeze into single rooms, neighbours frequently browse on his phone. “My daughter can use the internet [for schoolwork],” said neighbour Tosin Alabi, his face lit by the screen’s blue glow during a recent powercut. “Personally myself I can never pay 1,000 naira [£4] every week for internet. And the battery is terrible when I can go for two days without charging my own phone,” he added, indicating a battered Nokia feature phone.

Nokia’s low-cost phones remain the top overall sellers across Africa, though affordable mid-range mobiles could also erode RIM’s top-end dominance, analysts say. Last year, Chinese manufacturer Huawei gobbled up almost half of Kenya’s smartphone market with the launch of its $100 devices powered by Google’s Android software. RIM has felt the heat in South Africa, where, unlike Nigeria, mobile carriers offer packages with Apple iPhones. “You’re only with it if you have an iPhone, preferably the iPhone 5, or Samsung Galaxy SIII,” said Khayakazi Mgojo, based in Pretoria.

A three-day loss of service across Africa and parts of Europe last year was the final straw for some. “I switched because BlackBerry was frustrating me with all its constant freezing at the most inconvenient times, short battery life and the daily reboots,” Mgojo said. Nevertheless she added: “I still use it for social network because it’s cheap compared to buying data bundles.”

RIM hopes to bat away growing competition in its most important African markets by releasing its jazzed up BlackBerry 10 software in South Africa and Nigeria at the same time as other global markets next year. “At a time when Nokia is strengthening its distribution arm in Nigeria and Apple has recently appointed its first official distributor … the opening of the first BlackBerry-branded retail store is a logical step [to remain] the country’s No 1 smartphone vendor,” said Nick Jotischky, an analyst with Informa Telecoms & Media.

And for the consumer there still seems a popular groundswell for RIM’s best known product. Manzo George, a businessman who owns three BlackBerrys, said he had no plans to switch over to an Android phone anytime soon. “When people ask me why not try a new brand smartphone, I tell them there are smartphones and then there are BlackBerrys.”

Outsmarted

The once mighty BlackBerry is no longer a status symbol in western markets, but RIM hopes for a revival on 30 January with the release of its new operating system, BlackBerry 10.

Caught in the crossfire between Apple and Android, RIM has lost market share. Its devices excel at email and instant messaging, making them popular with younger users who cannot afford big phone bills, but the company has been left behind because of its failure to create a smartphone that can efficiently navigate the wider web.

RIM’s worldwide market share stood at nearly 20% in 2009, says research firm Gartner, but has now fallen to 5%. While smartphone sales are booming, RIM’s shipment volumes have fallen 57% in a year, according to IDC resaerch. In June the firm reported its first operating loss since 2004, and set out plans to shrink its headcount by a third, shedding 5,000 jobs.

Source

Categories
Lifestyle

Perhaps African Leaders Should Avoid Facebook

A new statistical analysis indicates that the more Facebook fans an African politician has, the more likely they are to be forced from power.

Statistics can be used to prove anything. In the realm of social media, for instance, they can even be used to predict the career longevity of African leaders. While correlation is not necessarily causation, it seems that the more Facebook friends an African politician has… the more likely they are to be thrown out of office.

African internet analysis site Oafrica recently published a data set of the Facebook presences of different African presidents, prime ministers and rulers. It revealed interesting data nuggets: Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan gained more than 250,000 online ‘likes’ for his official page in five months, while President Fradique De Menezes of far-off Sao Tome & Principe only had a mere 24 Facebook fans for his community page as of December 2010. In the following months, only two more Facebook users liked de Menezes’ page.

But then Ethan Zuckerman, a researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, discovered that having more followers on Facebook was directly proportional to regime instability:

Here are the top leaders, in terms of followers, as of December 2010:

341,759 – Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria
232,424 – Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia
61,510 – Mwai Kibaki, Kenya
59,744 – King Mohamed VI, Morocco
57,072 – Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe (Prime Minister to Robert Mugabe)
21,306 – Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania
15,723 – Hosni Mubarak, Egypt
15,377 – Laurent Gbagbo, Ivory Coast
14,714 – Jacob Zuma, South Africa
12,658 – Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria

In that top ten, we’ve got two leaders who’ve been forced out of power (Ben Ali, Mubarak), one struggling to retain power after losing an election (Gbagbo), one facing protests like the ones that toppled his neighbor (Bouteflika) and one in danger of arrest from opponents within his coalition government (Tsvangirai.) In other words, there doesn’t seem to be a strong correlation between Facebook friends and staying power of a regime.

Of course, Africa is in a uniquely unstable geopolitical position right now. Egypt and the Maghrebi states have been turned upside-down as a result of the 2011 Arab revolutions. Meanwhile, the Ivory Coast is still suffering from an ongoing political crisis that puts Gbagbo’s government in serious jeopardy.

Regardless of the correlation/causality debate, 50% of the politicians on Oafrica’s list have either been thrown out of power or have dealt with career-threatening crises in the past four months. While it may not compare with Anne Hathaway’s mysterious power over Warren Buffet, it is still quite impressive.

Source