By Tefo Mohapi
Nigeria added 35 Million NEW internet users during the period between 2007 and 2010 (as reported by the United Nations / International Telecommunications Union), thus ranking third in the world for number of new internet users for this period behind China (1st) and India (2nd).
I went out looking for African tech start-ups, specifically Nigerian ones, to hear if this has had any positive impact on them and how they are harnessing this great opportunity which sees the internet (& mobile internet) adoption on a rapid rise in Africa. Also, I wanted to understand why even though Nigeria is ranked 3rd, yet there are no African tech start-ups in the Top 100 tech companies world wide (based on revenues & market share) and yet China, India and Russia have companies in the Top 100.
As such I spoke to Mukhtar Oyewo – CEO of mobiQube Nigeria Ltd.
Tefo Mohapi: Nigeria added 35M new web users between ’07 and ’10, ranking it 3rd in the world on new users for this period behind China and India. As a business owner (web and mobile application development) have you realized improved uptake of your applications/services?
Mukhtar Oyewo: As a startup, we are yet to release a product into the market except for our recent acquisition – Yarnable
(www.yarnable.com) – which is under complete redesign and upgrade, so we are yet to realize any improvement in terms of uptake of our service. We are however taking this number into cognisance in the development of our products. As a company that has decided to focus on mobile applications, which is 55% of the internet penetration in Nigeria, we are working on mobile applications that are Africa centric and that would service this large and growing market.
TM: What challenges do you face?
MO: Our major challenges are: Slow internet connectivity, and lack of an in-application mobile payment gateway platform.
TM: How have you addressed these challenges?
MO: In Nigeria today, the Internet Service Providers especially on mobile are improving with them offering 3G services to subscribers at reasonable costs. We see faster and more improved internet services in the near future.
Mukhtar continued to elaborate:
As a mobile application development company, we need to monetize the products we release, and we are trying to look beyond the advertisement model, we believe users would pay for great apps. So we are trying right now to work out a partnership with companies offering mobile money services to achieve this.
TM: How can African tech-startups harness the potential and growth of both web and mobile apps?
MO: Tech startups can harness this growth potential by creating apps with local content and local solutions which can help users solve problems local to them. They should also find a way of monetizing such solution to ensure that they profit from this number.
Africa has reached a period where tech startups could become highly valuable if they develop applications that are focused either localized content or solving Africa specific matters and then using the same model to expand world wide (e.g. Ushahidi).
As African Techpreneurs and a Tech enthusiasts it is becoming clearer by the day that with great ideas, we can build the most profitable and sustainable companies in Africa.
Mukhtar had this to say in closing:
At mobiQube, we have seen the mobile web sector as a great opportunity, so we have decide to focus all our resources on providing users with mobile applications that seek to satisfy the user’s needs. So we are currently working on an application which would soon be launched to the public, which gives users access to applications with local content and solutions.
The application is a platform provider that also allows developers upload their mobile web apps and offers users the opportunity to use these apps. It would be deployed across all mobile platforms and would remove the hitches developers face in trying to know what platform to develop for and having to keep switching from platform to platform. We have created the platform that has bridged the gap between local developers and users who seek local content.