SA mobile app grows across Africa
VALUE ADDED SERVICES| Sept. 20, 2012, 8:06 a.m.
One of South Africa’s quietest tech success stories is a seven-person business that’s gone from startup to profitability in just four years – without ever marketing itself or taking a cent of outside financing. In the process, mobile social network 2go has come to dominate the Nigerian market, where it has over nine million active users – several million more than Facebook.
The secret, says director Peter Lockhart, has been balancing a tight focus on what 2go’s users really want – a cheap, easy way to chat and socialise using their mobile phones – with the deep technical expertise needed to deliver that experience across thousands of different devices.
“Building mobile technology for an African market is tough,” says Lockhart. “Data and SMS are expensive, and our users are price sensitive and savvy. That means we have to deliver an application that uses the absolute minimum of system resources and bandwidth. Our response has been to develop proprietary communications protocols and compression algorithms that minimise the app’s data usage.”
The 2go team has also cracked the technical challenge of producing an app that works equally well on all of the myriad feature phones that still dominate the African market. “It’s much, much harder to develop for feature phones than for smartphones,” says Lockhart, “partly because there is such a variety of platforms and operating systems. You need deep technical knowledge. This technical knowledge also extends to our ability to scale the back-end in a very resource efficient manner.”
The fact that 2go works well on many handsets has been critical to the viral spread of the app, says Lockhart, adding “feature phones aren’t going away any time soon. Projections from Informa indicate that non-smart phones will still comprise 85% of the African handset market in 2015.”
2go has resisted the temptation to bloat its app with added features, adds Lockhart. “Our users log in and out quickly, several times a day – they want things to be quick and simple,” he says. “We’ve thought through every menu item; every pixel is there because it serves a purpose.”
Alongside this technical focus, 2go has also remained extremely alert and sensitive to the needs of its users. “Our target market is not some kind of generic ‘Africa’,” says Lockhart. “We ask what country are they in, what region, what city? 2go really took off in Nigeria when we noticed that our users wanted to be able to chat within their university communities. So we did the research and created a chat room for each university in the country.”
2go also actively solicits and follows up on suggestions from its users, adds Lockhart. “People want to be asked for their opinion. Many of our users are starved for entertainment and engagement. 31% of our Nigerian users tell us they don’t watch television, but 66% of them spend two or more hours on their phones each day. It’s a very sociable society, and 2go supports that sociability.”
The insights gained in Nigeria have fed back into the South African market, where 2go has 1,5m active users and counting. The app also provides gateways to other popular social networks such as GTalk, MXIT and Facebook. “I use 2go to chat with friends on Facebook and they have no idea,” says Lockhart. “Our whole mission is to make chat easy, cheap and painless, no matter what device you’re using.”
2go is a mobile social network targeting users in emerging markets, particularly in Africa. The company has over 21 million registered users with more than 10 million active users in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. User adoption is growing rapidly at approximately 50,000 new registrations a day.
2go users message each other for free, meet new people and share updates and photos with friends and family. 2go’s mobile currency, GoCredits, enables users to buy content, play games and message each other in in chat rooms.
2go’s success lies in its simple elegant user interface, nimble and highly scalable platform, and its support for Blackberry (with BIS integration) and over 800 feature phones (which still dominate handset penetration in Africa).
The company recently launched the 2go Ad Platform and 2go Market Research. The 2go Ad Platform enables brands and advertising agencies to target and engage with 2go’s growing base of young savvy users. 2go Market Research leverages the power of the 2go community to conduct real-time surveys and polls that deliver actionable insights with immediate value to clients.
MORE VALUE ADDED SERVICES NEWS
Sterling Bank, AppZone’s CreditClub partner on unbanked customersSterling Bank Plc has signed up to AppZone’s CreditClub to leverage its agent network and banking technology platform to serve customers outside traditional branches. Read More
Africa offers potential for cashless paymentAfrican countries share some of the world’s highest speeds of digital growth with people now constantly in pursuit of faster and more convenient ways of paying for goods and services. With the advances in technology, it is now possible to satisfy this demand at reasonable costs, delegates heard at ... Read More
Safaricom launches M-PESA bill manager serviceSafaricom has launched a new service known as ‘Bill Manager’ that will enable customers to manage and pay bills via M-PESA all in a single transaction. Read More
BankOne empowers 250 Microfinance BanksOne of Africa’s leading Information Technology platforms for micro finance banks, BankOne, has announced the signing up of its 250th client. Read More
Orange Money in France to allow money transfers to three African countriesOrange Money is available in Metropolitan France to enable Orange mobile subscribers in France to transfer money via their mobile to other Orange Money customers in Côte d'Ivoire, Mali and Senegal. Read More
Dar es Salaam gets UberDar es Salaam has become the 475th city to join in Uber’s growing global network. Read More
Carrefour signs up for Lipa Na M-PESACarrefour, the world’s second largest hypermarket chain, has today become the first retailer in Kenya to fully integrate Safaricom’s payments service – Lipa Na M-PESA – paving the way for the retailer to fully adopt M-PESA as a payments channel in Kenya. Read More
Tigo Insurance pays 10,000th claimantTigo Ghana says it paid over GHS 6.2 million to policyholders since the inception of Tigo Insurance in 2010. This was revealed during the presentation of a payment to its 10,000th claimant. Read More
Uber signs MoU with Ghana’s Transport MinistryUber, a technology company that connects riders and drivers at the touch of a button, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Ghana’s Ministry of Transport. Read More
FEATURED STORYGovernment should encourage youths in ICT early
Youths should be given more encouragement to develop their ICT skills, an 11-year-old app developer told Kokumo Goodie.
BEST READ NEWS
IN DEPTHIBM Opens First Cloud Data Centre in South Africa
IBM is opening a new IBM Cloud Data Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. The new cloud center is the result of a close collaboration with Gijima and Vodacom and is designed to support cloud adoption and customer demand across the continent.
COMPANY NEWSTigo, JI and GES equip teachers on child online protection initiative
Tigo, in partnership with J Initiative (JI), a youth focused non-governmental organisation in Ghana, have committed to protecting children online through policy advocacy, awareness creation, public education ...Ericsson and King’s College London demonstrate 5G tactile robotic surgery
Ericsson and King’s College London will be demonstrating a 5G use case of tactile robotic surgery at 5G World 2016 in London on 29-30 June.