The most exciting mobile apps from Africa

The following is a guest post by Rudy De Waele, CEO & Founder of Nyota Media. The article is based on the below embedded slideshow which is a result of his company Nyota Media‘s latest research and in-depth analysis of the African mobile market focusing on the most progressive Sub-Saharan countries. Included are lots of statistics on mobile and 3G penetration, the elements coming together to create a healthy ecosystem and examples of innovative local entrepreneurs who are creating new greenfield opportunities with mobile across the continent.

I started investigating mobile in Africa, in early 2010, which resulted in the Mobile Trends 2020 Africa document I curated together with Ken Banks and Erik Hersman, and presented at The Next Web Conference in 2011.

Embedded below is a new slide deck from a presentation I gave at ForumOxford: Mobile Apps and Technologies Conference, in November 2012.

As with all online presentations without video, you will never catch the real context of a talk just based on the slides, so I’m summarising some of the key points of my talk in this post.

In this presentation, I’m not covering the obvious Mobile Money, mGovernment or mHealth apps, but here is a quick overview of apps in more commercial areas like Social Media, Content and mCommerce to show you the entrepreneurial vibe and potential currently happening on the continent using mobile technology.

Following are some of the most exciting apps I mentioned in this document mainly in Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria.

At Nyota Media we keep up to date on the latest research in order to understand all different SSA markets  and we shall publish more reports to help local African entrepreneurs with more visibility and growth, as part of what we do with Nyota Media.

As my co-founding partner and Director of Communications at Nyota Media, Shaheera Asante points out.

“We understand the complex process of sector penetration that international companies face in trying to effectively engage with the fast-paced growth in technology across sub-Saharan Africa, and on the other side of the coin, we are now servicing new African based enterprises looking to utlise mobile technology to improve multiple sectors for growth within Africa.

I am passionate in my daily dialogue and communication to local entrepreneurs that its important to focus on identifying a local problem, thinking up a local solution to it using innovation – as Africans we must be makers of technology, not only users of it. At Nyota Media its our ethos to make sure there is a better understanding that whatever works, from job-creation, skills enhancement to effective communication – the social and economic benefits must be in Africa’s next generations’ benefit, with economic success trickling around the continent and not only out of it”.

Interesting Mobile Apps

Social Media

In Africa, there’s more than just Facebook and Twitter, some social networks & tools are popping up driving huge user traffic. Mxit, Africa’s largest social network has over 50 million users and is by far the widest reaching mobile advertising medium in South Africa and beyond. Cool start-ups hitting right in a user need can go quickly to a million or millions of users in a couple of weeks. In many cases, they are already funded or are getting funded or bought by larger companies.

Motribe: Easily build a mobile social network. Released MxPix photo app in June 2012 with over 1 million users. Founded in Cape Town, August 2010.

biNu: Turns most phones into a smartphone by providing easy access to Internet based apps and services. Founded in Sydney, Australia.

Saya: Brings SMS-like messaging to low-end devices. Founded in Ghana, August 2011.


Nollywood is the second largest film industry in the world in terms of number of annual film productions, placing it ahead of the United States and behind the Indian film industry. Nigeria has a US$ 250 million movie industry, churning out some 200 videos for the home video market every month.

Afrinolly: Watch trailers of movies produced in the African movie markets. Winner of Android Developer Challenge, 2011.

Deezer: Download music to your mobile device or computer, and then listen to your music offline. Founded in France, 2007 and focusing on French-speaking markets.

Streemio: Allows you to listen to unlimited music – anytime, anywhere. Similar to Deezer, but founded in Ghana, December 2011. To be launched yet.

Spinlet: Brings media distribution to emerging markets in Africa. Headquarters in San Francisco and offices in Lagos, Nigeria and Tampere, Finland.

simfy: Streaming music service that allows for offline listening available in South Africa.

Zikify: Stream East African music from anywhere. Founded by five Ugandans, early 2012.

Africori: A synch licensing platform for African music, connecting artists with TV and film production companies, video games developers, and advertisers. Offices in London, Cape Town, and Lagos.

Mdundo: Download music to your phone from your favourite artists by redeeming scratch cards. Founded in Kenya, mid-2012.

mCommerce Discover, explore and locate local offers. Launched in Kenya, December 2011.

Mocality: Successful Kenyan business directory launched in 2010.

Zimbile: Free Mobile Website Builder designed to help businesses across Africa take advantage of the mobile Internet explosion. Founded in April 2011.

M-Farm: Up-to-date market information links farmers to buyers through a marketplace and current agri-trends. Founded in Kenya, 2010.

iCow: Developed in 2010, iCow helps dairy farmers manage their cows more sustainably. Kenyan.

MoBiashara: MoBiashara, which translates as “mo’ business,” is a platform that allows business owners to quickly and easily build a mobile storefront and begin selling their products online. Founded in Kenya, 2011.

Pashash: Allows users to share real-world shopping finds. Winner of the 2012 Start-up World Cup. Based in Cape Town.


Worldreader gives kids in the developing world access to digital books. Using e‑readers loaded with thousands of local and international e-books, the non-profit provides children the books they want and need. Note that in many African area’s kids don’t have access to books at all, that’s why this solution has a lot of potential knowing that tablet devices become cheaper and cheaper very year.

As of June 2012, they’ve put over 220,000 e-books – and the life-changing, power-creating ideas contained within them – into the hands of 1,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa. Those children now read more, read better, and are improving their communities. Worldreader has running projects in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.


Nigeria’s Saheed Adepoju is the inventor of the Inye; a tablet computer designed for the African market funded the project with £40,000 from his parents. The ENCIPHER key selling point is its price – $350 as opposed to around $700 for an iPad. The system runs on Android.

Congo based start-up VMK launched its own tablet with pretty impressive hardware last year. It easily betters some of the cheaper tablets available in the UK. The company’s solution is a homegrown tablet that offers a better quality to price ratio, designed locally, that will be available to a greater percentage of Africa’s population than an imported device. Note that in many African countries there are huge taxes on imported devices.


Looking at the size of the African continent and its population, the numbers and fast growth are impressive, the continent is as big as India, US, China and Europe put together.

There is so much potential with mobile on this continent, the important factors to accelerate things are in place; investments in technology and infrastructure, a new generation of young African entrepreneurs  taking their future in their own hands,  and are willing to partner with international business to create a better life for African citizens.

Lots of Greenfield opportunities in many areas, with increased job creation as a result.

Africa is not the future, Africa is now!