MEA2014 urges more apps for basic phones

Mobile app developers in East Africa should create more solutions suited for basic and feature phones since the masses are yet to own the high end smartphones.

Collaborated reports from experts at the Mobile East Africa 2014 conference showed that the high cost of smartphones and mobile data has seen the majority of people sticking to relatively affordable feature phones.

In Nairobi, for instance, the cost for smartphones ranges between sh20,000  and sh100,00, whereas basic phones cost as little as sh1500.

Leonard Kambona, Business Development Manager at South Sudan consulting firm Smecoss, revealed that in his country, 80 per cent of mobile subscribers still use feature phones, thus concentrating on smartphone apps alone could lock out a majority.

Mr. Kambona said a Smecoss research showed that 61 per cent of South Sudanese do not know about mobile internet banking thus the need for investors to treat each market uniquely.

The same trend resonates across other East African countries where high cost of smartphones and mobile data has seen uptake of feature phones grow.

The consensus seemed to indicate that there is need to build mobile applications that address real problems unique to the targeted audience.

There was however consensus that even the basic mobile phones open up different possibilities in the market and that Africa is the fastest growing mobile market in the world.

The experts warned that for Africa to benefit from any new innovations, the technology needs to utilize relevant and crucial data on Africa.

Lindsay Britz, Marketing Manager South Africa based Magic Sofware said  mobile app developers  should plug in analytics in their applications to collect useful data that can be used for business intelligence.

Britz said Magic software helps app developers to redefine business processes on any device, be it a feature or a smart phone.

“The magic software cuts down on coding time and requires no multi-platform testing…once built it can be deployed on many platforms without additional code,” Britz explained at a sideline interview during the conference.

She said with decrease in cost of gadgets and mobile data, there will rapid uptake of phones across Africa, thus reason the region will leapfrog on the mobile front.

Jonathan Endersby, Head of Special Projects, Praekelt Consulting, said “there is need to embrace USSD and SMS to take web and brands to non-smartphone users.”

“We have more phones that we have drinking water in Africa…there is potential in mobile,” said Endersby.

Expert after expert at the Mobile East Africa 2014 conference which ended on Thursday, showcased how social media data can be used by advertisers and product developers to meet needs of targeted audiences.

Mobile Expert Tomi  Ahonen said revenues from data is on the uptrend, but to maximise these revenues there must be a multiplier effect.

“We understand individual data. The main thing is the social dispensation of data collected… when working with data it is important to use it to find solutions for crucial concerns which have not previously been addressed.

Mr Ahoned cited an example of how a multinational company uses SMS to let its customers know they have run out of their product, based on data earlier submitted by the customers.

“Upon this reminder the consumers go and get the product, helping to increase sales up to 60 per cent,” said Ahonen.

Kyei Mullei, CEO and Co-Founder, Mobi Changa, a crowd funding solution, said there is power in social media analytics that should inform strategy of corporates wading into Africa.

“Crowd funding in Africa is from people you know, and it’s worth tens of billions of dollars a year,” Mullei said.

Stone Atwine, CEO and Co-founder of Redcore Money Transfer said the key challenges in international money transfer business include, “establishing Customer Trust, Regulatory Compliance, Forex Risk, Fraud, Marketing  and Education.”

Alluding to a recent World Bank Report, Mr. Atwine said 11.9 per cent of total funds spent to Africa in remittances are used as transaction fees.

Samuel Majani, Founder of Kenya’s leading blog, said there is unexploited potential in digital media which bloggers can leverage on.

Mr. Majani revealed that only 15 per cent of Ghafla’s income is derived from ad networks (like google ads) with the rest coming from SMEs and corporates.

He urged bloggers to embrace a code of ethics in their reporting to attract advertising revenue from the corporate world.

There was however concern that Africa is not generating enough local content for its growing digital space.

Formerly known as Mobile Web East Africa, Mobile East Africa has been running for 5 years now.

The conference attracts stakeholders in the African mobile space. The gathering is part of circuit of conferences that includes the east, West and southern African regions.


 By Semaj Itsono

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