Smartphone penetration should come with more localized apps

By Paul Barasa

In the past three months, more than five high end devices have been launched in Kenya by different mobile phone manufacturers most notably the recently launched Galaxy S10 by Samsung. The African smartphone market continues to grow as more manufacturers set up shops in various cities across the continent.

The growing demand for smartphones and tablet computers around the world is firing this mobile revolution. In 2012 alone, up to a billion Smartphones were sold around the world and the figure is expected to rise far into the coming decade.

According to research firm Ovum, the smartphone penetration rate will grow at 52.9% year-on-year. Currently, there are 293.8 million smartphone users across the African continent.

With such numbers, it is only fair if we also have an audit of how many apps originate from this great continent.

Currently, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana alongside South Africa are leading the pack with at least 50 percent penetration of the top ten smartphones in each of these countries.

Certainly, we all have our reservations when it comes to brands, especially with smartphones, we have loyalists then we have those who make their decisions based entirely on how much value they can squeeze from a device.

The global mobile app market is now worth nearly $ 30 billion but Africa has almost no share of this mouthwatering cake. Although our continent is the world’s biggest and fastest growing mobile telephone market after China, we have barely explored the goldmine of localized apps that are possible on our simple and smart phones.


In all honesty, there is a huge and untapped market for apps made in Africa for Africa and even for the world. With keen observation, you find that no one is doing anything about it apart from budding app developers that are marred with funding challenges. But what’s the opportunity for the continent? More than 40 billion mobile apps are downloaded and used across the world every year. That’s more than 100 million downloads every day.

The appeal for Mobile apps is in the diversity of their use. Literally, there are apps for everything you can think of. There are lots of apps for games, information services, news, social networking, health, business, weather and even travel just to mention a few..

However, tech companies must create ecosystems that encourage developers to make apps that users will find interesting and useful but more importantly those that speak to their local needs. So far, mobile banking and mobility apps are proving to be the most beneficial in this youthful economy.

There is tremendous room for early African starters to take advantage of the largely undeveloped mobile apps market in Africa. Aspiring African mobile app developers need to focus on ‘Afro-centric’ apps and content that are unique to the culture, tastes and uniqueness of our continent.

The explosive growth of Africa’s app scene is informed by higher levels of access to mobile internet. Internet penetration in the Africa region is 15.6% with 167m internet users. Mobile ownership in Africa is high – 90% of South Africans, 82% of Nigerians and 60% Kenyans have at least one mobile phone, according to the market research firm TNS Global.

As internet penetration and mobile phone ownership rises in Africa, the commercial opportunities that the mobile app industry offers in the region is vast. As a result, industry players should open up avenues for developers to come up with cutting-edge apps, from life-saving technology to locally relevant scenarios.

Beyond iCow, a Kenyan app which allows farmers to access information relating to their cattle – from the fertility cycles of their cows to the costs of milk production – all by using their mobile phones and mPedigree, which allows users to check that medicine they have purchased is not counterfeit, we need apps that will not only be solution driven to local users but also will ultimately impact the country’s economic growth.

The writer is communication consultant

Staff Writer143 Posts - Kenya Tech News. Technology and Business News. Writes about policy, product reviews and opinions, and trend analysis.


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