Africa has proven itself to be the hub of mobile phone usage and growth, with studies by the Pew Research Center showing that while only one in ten individuals on the continent owned a mobile device in 2002, is has rapidly changed. Now more than two-thirds of people in five of Africa’s major mobile phone markets, namely South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Uganda, own a mobile phone and access the internet via their mobile phones. With a mobile phone growth rate of over 300 percent, Africa has skipped the landline development phase of communication altogether.
Mobile phone ownership is especially high in South Africa and Nigeria with nine in ten individuals owning a mobile device. When it comes to mobile internet access, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa are the countries with the highest number of mobile internet access on the continent with Ghana having an average mobile internet usage of 51 percent, followed by Nigeria with 47 percent according to results from the 2015 Mobile Africa study. The study also reveals that the most popular mobile phone brand is Samsung, and by default, Android is the most popular app store. Blackberry still maintains its market share in Africa as it introduced the internet to the continent with its cheaper data rates and easy access to social media, app downloads and email. A strong contender after Samsung is Apple as its popularity among users is rising significantly in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.
South Africa leads in app downloads, signifying a higher smartphone adoption, with Ghana and Nigeria taking second and third place respectively.
According to the Sub-Saharan African Mobile End-user Trends report, mobile phone penetration in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to increase from 52 percent in 2012 to 79 percent in 2020. This will make the region the fastest-growing globally over the next seven years.
With much access to the internet and mobile technology, mobile apps are being downloaded daily. From a medical-based app that connects general healthcare workers directly to specialists, to one that aims to bridge the gap between farmers and businesses, here’s a look at some useful mobile apps in Africa.
South African App WumDrop is a services and delivery app that works similarly to the popular ride-sharing service Uber. Customers type in their pick-up address, sender name, and contact details and then repeat for the drop-off details. Additional instructions can also be entered to ensure a proper delivery.
After accepting the quote, the delivery is then dispatched to a WumDrop driver. WumDrop drivers, who apply via strict criteria including criminal checks, earn 70 percent of the delivery fee while WumDrop takes 30 percent. WumDrop charges under a dollar (R12) per kilometre, with a minimum fare of around $3.58 (R50).
The app is free via the Google Play Store, and is currently only available in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The days where television service providers dictate what viewers watch and when they watch it are slowly fading away, with most consumers opting to select what they want to consume. IROKOtv supplies consumers with the freedom to choose their own programming. The Nigerian movie and TV series app has over 6,000 Nigerian and Ghanaian films, along with a selection of Bollywood, Hollywood and Korean movies too. Users download their favourite movies and TV series after signing up and subscribing to the service provider for around $2.50 per month. They are able to watch the movies and TV series offline on their Android device.
The app is free on the Google Play Store. It is available to customers outside of Nigeria, and iROKOtv can also be accessed online.
Agriculture is the largest economic sector in Africa, therefore it only makes sense for technology to bridge the gap between farmers and business. Esoko is a communication app for businesses, projects, NGOs and governments to connect with farmers.
Founded in 2005 by acting CEO Mark Davies under the name TradeNet in Ghana. The name later changed to Esoko in 2009, with the word ‘e’ representing electronic and ‘soko’ meaning market in Swahili. The initial aim of the company was to provide a technology solution to collect and share market prices via SMS with farmers across most African countries.
Today it also houses agricultural content and on-the-ground deployment services for any business needs with regards to agriculture. It is seen as the gateway to services such as marketing and goods sourcing, mobile money deployments, national farmer clubs and statistical services.
Esoko currently operates in Ghana, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Benin, Madagascar and Mozambique.
Access to Esoko’s apps and services are only available after an initial sign up and registration on the website.
In a world where being busy has taken time away from conventional cooking and driving to a restaurant for a quick bite, HelloFood offers the convenience of allowing users in Ghana to order food at a click of a button. Users are given an array of restaurants to choose from based on their location, while being able to customize their meals with various sauces and toppings. The app also offers exclusive deals to save you money. HelloFood was recently awarded the Best Mobile App Company of the Year at the 5th edition of the Ghana Telecom Awards.
The app is available in Nigeria, Morocco, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Algeria and Egypt as a free download via the Google Play Store, iTunes and Microsoft.
5. Leti Arts
The rise of mobile phones on the continent has seen an increase in the popularity of mobile games. Leti Arts is an app for gaming fanatics who want an authentic African mobile game experience. Founded by Ghanaians Eyram Tawi and Wesley Kirinya in 2009, the two develop cross-platform interactive media products based on African history and folklore, including digital comics and mobile games. Their current game on offers is ‘Africa’s Legends’, a superhero series influenced by folklore and historic legends from across the continent. The game is currently receiving good reviews on the Google Play Store, with avid gamers saying that the game is interesting and offers a contemporary take on African folklore.
Leti Arts games are available on the Google Play Store for free.
6. Safaricom M-Ledger app
The Safaricom M-Ledger app was created out of a need for M-PESA users to track and monitor their transactions. M-PESA is a popular money transfer and micro-financing service that was launched in 2007 by Vodafone for Safaricom and Vodacom. The service enables subscribers to deposit money, send money to any mobile number or bank account, withdraw money and make utility payments.
The Safaricom M-Ledger allows M-PESA users to monitor their transactions by providing users with their financial status from their M-PESA transactions, and this information is stored on their smartphones. The app scans all the received SMS messages sent by M-PESA for all transactions and builds a database from that information.
The app is free on the Google Play Store or the Safaricom App Store.
7. Vula Mobile
Vula Mobile is a South African medical-based app that that connects general healthcare workers directly to specialists. The health practitioners can make referrals, get advice, find information, and undertake diagnostic tests, all through their mobile phone, resulting in more accurate diagnoses and more appropriate referrals. The app simplifies the current referral system used by health practitioners.
Vula Mobile recently won the Most Innovative App award at the 2015 MTN App of the Year Awards. It is available for free on iTunes.
EtCal is a popular app in Ethiopia that is used to track date and holidays in the Ethiopian calendar.
It’s used to convert dates to or from the Gregorian calendar and view Ethiopian national holidays (including Muslim holidays), Ethiopian Orthodox fasts & feasts, and internationally recognized dates. The Ethiopian calendar is written in Ethiopia’s primary language, Amharic, and is different to the Gregorian calendar by 7 years due to the results from an alternate calculation in determining the date of the annunciation of Jesus Christ.
It has received good reviews on the Google Play Store, with users saying that it is useful and makes date conversion simpler. It is available as a free download both on the Google Play Store and in the iTunes store.
Mobile messengers have taken over the communication world, with apps such as MXit and Whatsapp being the popular ones. 2Go has also taken the mobile messenger app world by storm, where users can chat with friends, create user profiles and upload profile pictures, meet new people in chat-rooms and play games in online rooms.
Even though the app is a South African app founded by Alan Wolff and Ashley Peters, the biggest user base in Africa is in Nigeria with over 10 million active users. Overall, it has more than 20 million active users in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya.
2Go is available on the Google Play Store or via the 2Go website.
While Uber is not an “African app”, it has certainly made getting around a lot easier in the six African countries it’s currently available in. Its global success has lead to the creation of many similar apps like the WumDrop app [also featured in this piece]. Uber connects riders to drivers in their specific city, and allows customers to roughly calculate the cost of their trip. You then pay the cab fee with Google Wallet, PayPal or a credit card and set up your pick up location, while being able to track the driver as he/she makes their way to you.
The service was first launched in Africa in 2012, starting with three cities in South Africa – Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban. It is now also available in Lagos, Nairobi, and Cairo. The app is available for a free download via the Google Play Store or iTunes.
While this innovative app is not for everyday use, it’s a useful one for Nigerians who love their Sallah holidays. Seeing as eating well prepared ram on Sallah Day is a must for most Nigerians over the 2 day public holiday, Ramlocator allows users to share their ram party on the platform. They add their location on Ramlocator, which is not shared publicly until they approve, and once approval is sent through, those who want to attend a party can search through the app to find one that is closest to them. Once the party is found, users wanting to attend will request an invite from the host.