China’s WeChat, a popular mobile social communication tool with about 190 monthly active users supporting voice, video, photo and text interaction is moving aggressively into the African market to compete with global messaging platform, WhatsApp. The service offers cross platform compatibility for iOS, Android, Windows Phone,Symbian and BlackBerry smart phones.
WeChat enables users to chat individually or in groups using a WiFi connection or mobile data. It was founded by Chinese Internet company, Tencent and is supported by South African multinational, Naspers. Naspers owns 33% of Tencent.
Speaking on WeChat’s entry into the African market, Brett Loubser, Managing Director of WeChat South Africa said:
“We are extremely enthusiastic about WeChat’s prospects for growth in Africa. Traditionally, mobile users tend towards services that enable them to engage in conversation without restrictive costing models. The fact that WeChat is a free service equipped with unparalleled voice, video, photo and text sharing functionality bodes well for its continued progress on the continent”.
“WeChat is freely downloadable. This means that any user on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Symbian and BlackBerry enabled devices can access the application without the need for a payment mechanism such as a credit card. This, we believe, is a significant differentiator within the African context where commonly used payment systems often deviate from globally accepted models,” he said.
P2P chat applications are known to thrive in African countries especially Nigeria which is known to be experiencing a mobile chat communications boom.