Sunday, November 8, 2009

Social Media African Way - AKA Mobile, UGC and Local - Special AfricaComm 2009

The number of South Africans who use their cell phones to access the internet now exceeds the number of those who rely on traditional desktop means of connecting to the World Wide Web. This is a trend that we seen very much across the entire African continent—PC and broadband penetration rates are very low while mobile penetration keeps growing.

In Opera Software's October 2008 edition of the State of the Mobile Web report, South Africa ranks 6th and Egypt ranks 8th in the global Top 10 for mobile internet usage, ahead of many Western countries. Today almost 29% of South Africans use mobile UGC services/content on a daily basis and by the end of 2013, the total South African mobile UGC revenue will reach a total of $476 million (JBB Research).

The mmCHANNEL team believes that the African social media scene will continue be mobile with the PC acting as a complement for only a small minority of the population. Which companies are leading the way? Although Facebook is the most popular mobile South African site today (case in point for other African countries population penetration of Facebook is 1,5% in Egypt, 0,17% in Nigeria to name a few (Unanimis March 2009), two local names MXit and The Grid have become a driving force for the South African mobile UGC services market today

MXit, which stands for message exchange, provides a free instant messaging application for both computers and mobile phones. It has also recently tried to extend the brand into what they call MXit lifestyle including music, social networking, and more. Their latest innovative entertainment product has been the launch of their first instant messaging book, ‘Emily and the battle of the veil’, which sells for an equivalent 50 euro cents. Since its launch in 2005, MXit has attracted more than 15 million users across the developing world. South Africa is by far their largest market with over 7 millions users.

The Grid
is a location-based social network, enabling subscribers to locate their friends on a map, chat via instant messaging, and share geo-tagged content. Lately it has been focusing on creating social interactions around content. Although Vodacom Ventures is the The Grid’s main funding source, it is wisely open to use by all South African operators and is actually being launched in countries where Vodacom is not present. Today it has more than a million users after less than a year in operation and is expanding into Tanzania and Nigeria, among other African countries

The future? At mmCHANNEL we believe and invest in Application Protocol Interface (API) connectivity and building social interactions around content for these and similar social media sites (take a look at East Africa’s first mobile social media community, Sembuse). In our opinion, these social media sites are going to become key outlets for mobile advertising, customer surveys, content consumption, and financial services in the near future. Location-based services, pricing flexibility, and viral marketing make the mobile social media space an African story. Stay tuned.

Some of my colleagues, Damien Saunders and Pedro Domingues will be at AfricaComm this week in Cape Town and I hope they can meet with many of you and find ways to keep being part of this new and evolving African mobile landscape

Send them an email to arrange a meeting: &

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