If Africa Does Anything Well, It Is Mobile: Watch That Space For Great Things To Come

KONGA, a Nigerian e-commerce site and third party merchants sold a billion naira worth of products during their 2015 annual Yakata sale.

Yakata is the Nigerian version of “Black Friday” and the figures were up by 400 million naira from the previous year.

More dramatically, Konga sold 500% more items on the two days of Yakata November sale than IT sold the whole of 2012.

While the numbers spoke to the rise of Africa’s consumer class, they were also a solid reminder of mobile’s dominance.

A quick look at the most popular items on Konga shows that phones and tablets are the biggest hits on the site. A majority of the shoppers during the sale also accessed the site via mobile phone; 53% from their 2014 figures. Konga Yakata

There were 608 million mobile connections in Africa as of June 2014, set to rise to 975 million by 2020 according to the GSMA.

In comparison the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimates that there are 4 million fixed internet connections on the continent.

Mobile phones on the continent are being used to transfer money, help expectant mothers in rural areas track their pregnancies, keep up with antenatal visits and getting farmers the best prices for their produce. If Africa does anything well, it is mobile, and it sits on great possibilities to create mobile solutions for the world.

DISRUPTING BANKING

Start with Umati capital, a Kenyan business that provides working capital for farmers.

Founded by former banker, Ivan Mbowa and serial entrepreneur, Munyutu Waigi, the company provides lines of credit for farmers, processors and cooperatives with no required collateral via mobile phones.

They also have a bulk payment system that allows businesses to make payments to suppliers through their mobile phone. The service is revolutionary as it bypasses the time and fees traditional banks.

The company is disrupting the financial sector and the farming industry by ensuring the cost of working capital is kept as low as possible. That has a direct positive impact on the profit farmers are able to make off their goods.

Within the same sector, there lies potential to disrupt consumer banking as we know it, by allowing the millions of unbanked Africans to use their mobile phones as banks. Kenya is leading in this sector as Safaricom’s M-Pesa and all its iterations have done this to an extent, but valuable information like credit history is hindering the process.

MINING DATA

To make it possible, a number of companies like Inventure and First Access are using data from mobile phones to assess the credit worthiness of borrowers. The cumbersome process of applying for a loan and waiting for approval could soon all be done on your cell phone. The statistics support this.

According to the World Bank in Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe have more adults using a mobile money account than owning an account at a financial institution. Banks as we know them on the continent may soon be obsolete.

Streaming services are huge in the rest of the world but are yet to make a dent on the continent. Access to high speed internet is the main barrier. Iroko tv, a Nigerian movie streaming service recently switched their new African consumers to mobile, offering a download and view option.

YouTube also began to offer offline viewing to help with the main hindrance to streaming content online.

Gifted Mom, a Cameroonian startup makes healthcare apps that track vaccinations, provide antenatal care to pregnant mothers and provide sex education to teenagers.

The solutions the company builds work even on feature phones and IT is looking to expand to Nigeria. Mobile applications already exist where patients can get access to medical advice from qualified professionals.

Pesa

It is not just local entrepreneurs trying to build the mobile future in Africa. Facebook launched Internet.org with the hope that the platform could offer much needed services through partnerships with local mobile operators.

The platform is still underutilised on the continent; you need to have an android smart phone to download the application and it currently seems to work as an opt-in service for sector players such as NGOs to provide information.

With the phenomenal growth Facebook has experienced on the continent, the potential to use the app to solve everyday problems such as knowing where the nearest health centre is or accessing information on reproductive health is tremendous. The platform could very well be the largest information hub on the continent.

In all, the potential for mobile solutions on the continent is, therefore, huge. The infrastructure already exists on most of the continent and mobile data is relatively cheap. The barriers to growth, such as the high cost of smart phones can be bridged through innovative partnerships that include manufacturing phones on the continent.

Africa has a first mover advantage here and it is time for the continent to use it and build for the world.

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