As South Africans, we’re frequently guilty of following European or American trends when it comes to finding “better” ways to do things. We think that if something works well overseas, it must surely be what we need here in South Africa. To be honest, it’s not a bad way to think – sometimes. Benefitting from the innovation and wisdom of others is, after all, how much of the world’s progress is made. But when it comes to mobile solutions, Africa has unique challenges that require unique, home-grown approaches. We need solutions devised by people who live and work in South Africa every day. People who understand the idiosyncrasies of our varied and disparate market, and the problems they face. No matter how great the solution may seem, if it’s not answering the right questions for the people you want to reach, it becomes just another thing they either don’t need or can’t afford.
Mobile solutions for Africa need to solve African problems. Data, for example, is still unaffordable for the majority of South Africans. When daily choices literally include “Do I buy bread or data?” you know you need to think a little more laterally when it comes to the best use of available mobile technology. As well as being expensive, data connections are also frequently unreliable. And of course, smartphones, in general, are still comparatively rare. These are all reasons why Africa’s mobile tech boom is being driven largely by non-app technology – and this is giving rise to some exciting, low-tech solutions.
Mobile Solutions Make Cents
Although globally, there has been a meteoric rise in the adoption of Internet-driven communication methods such as Whatsapp, Snapchat and Twitter, the humble SMS is still a significant player when it comes to mobile usage in Africa. In a continent where internet access is still relatively intermittent, and smartphone users make up less than a third of the total cell phone-using population, there is an urgent need for alternate methods of communication that are not data-reliant. Driven by the urgent need to communicate reliably with their diverse client bases, banks, healthcare, insurance and other industries are starting to develop increasingly innovative mobile solutions to better meet their customers’ needs.
Mobile money, for example, is a fantastic example of a local solution to a local problem – the prevalence of people without bank accounts. Thanks to this game-changing innovation, you can now open a bank account from a smartphone or feature phone. This means life-enhancing financial services can now be extended to people with little or no access to traditional financial institutions – notably women and rural populations.
There are now 282 mobile money services operating worldwide, and just over half of these are found in Sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, there currently 100 million active mobile money accounts in Africa – that’s one for every 10 adults. This number is over twice that of South Asia, which has the second largest number of accounts.
Of course, this is not just a revelation for individuals, but for businesses too. In rural areas, where the more conventional ways for accessing many services are restricted by yawning gaps in skills, funding and infrastructure, mobile services – including mobile money payment and billing services – are boosting the sustainability of many small businesses.
Delivering Real Value To Your Customers
Africa is a continent beset by social and economic vulnerability, sporadic electricity supply and low literacy and numeracy rates. Yet the use of technology across the continent is increasing. There has never been a better time to capitalise on this phenomenon to not only promote your product or service but to also deliver real, tangible and life-enhancing benefits to your customers.
It’s encouraging to see how the African narrative is changing. There is a definite and exciting move away from relying on foreign solutions to African problems, towards devising and implementing African solutions to African problems. The next step – which willundoubtedly come – is developing African solutions to global problems.
At Cellfind, we provide a complete range of high-volume, multichannel messaging mobile solutions to businesses and operators of all sizes. Let us help you set up a 2-way SMS messaging service or a dedicated, long number service. Both offer a great opportunity for branding, long-lasting customer relationships, and high conversion rates. Chat to us today.