Mobile app devs take on Africa

2012-10-25 21:07

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Nairobi - The scene might pass for a high-tech forum in California, but the young entrepreneurs presenting their products on stage are Africans, keen to show off low-tech applications for the continent.

US communications and technology company DEMO on Thursday opened a two-day trade fair in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, to showcase innovations and the continent's advances in the telecommunications sector.

Around 30 young exhibitors each had less than five minutes to convince an audience of some 200 people, whose attention was split between their smart phones and tablets, that they are the next Steve Jobs.

"We are on stand six, we hope you will put your money there because it will come back with interest," Jacob Mwema, co-founder of mobile application mTracker said at the end of his presentation, bouncing with enthusiasm.

mTracker allows drivers to use their mobile telephones to locate their cars, trigger the alarm system or switch off the engine, a useful tool in a city where violent car-jackings are common.

The fair focused on mobile telephone applications, a tool that has had perhaps more impact on daily life in Africa over the past decade than anywhere else in the world.

Africa has more than 500 million mobile devices - roughly one for every two people on the continent - and is partly credited with Africa's recent economic surge.

According to the World Bank, an average of 10 telephones for every 100 people is enough to increase a developing country's gross national product by 0.8%.

Computer engineers in Africa have thus been forced to adapt to the specific mobile needs of their market.

SMS the way

"We have many ideas that would do well in the 'first world' market but not here," explains 32-year old Mem Maina, co-founder of M-Kazi, a five-month old application that advertises jobs to subscribers via SMS text messages.

"In a country where only six million people have good internet access - and between 20 and 25 million have SMS access - it makes all sense to go the SMS way," added the dreadlocked software engineer.

The rise in mobile usage has been boosted by M-Pesa, an almost legendary money transfer service that has spread widely in Africa and beyond since its 2007 launch by Kenyan mobile firm Safaricom.

In a continent characterised by high unemployment levels and a young population, applications linked with the job market are numerous.

m-Pawa, another mobile based application, specialises in advertising jobs at the lower end of the salary range.

"Over 75% of the work force falls under the category of blue collar jobs," said Maxwell Kofi Efrem Donkor, who travelled from Ghana to showcase his product at the fair.

The young man says he was inspired by similar events in China and Brazil, and hopes to expand his product throughout Africa.

"Once you have the concept right, it is easy to extend it to the whole continent," said Paul Nguru, head of the business and investment firm PN Consulting.

But more experienced software developers warn many applications on show need more work before they turn financially lucrative, although few doubt the potential.

Shiv Shivakumar, senior executive for Nokia compares the young demographic and the internet explosion in Africa with the US in the 1950s, when the youth were introduced to the motor vehicle and the television.

"There is something unique in Africa, and Africa is the place to be in in the next decade," he said.

- SAPA
Read more on:    m-pesa  |  nokia  |  kenya  |  mobile
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Sport
 

3 sports games you have to watch this weekend

Whether it’s date night or a braai with buddies, plan around these three exciting sporting games!

 
 

Men24.com

Everyday struggles of naturally skinny guys
And this year's Miss Bumbum title goes to...
How to maintain your mo, bro
Hottie of the day: Colette

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

20% off ALL TV Series

Choose from 1000’s of the hottest TV Series . While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

“To infinity and beyond”….. As the Sun and the Moon move into Sagittarius you are able to let go of the emotional intensity of the...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.