Orange sees relationship with start-ups as part of Africa’s broader digital transformation

21 April 2017

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Orange is one of a handful of mobile operators on the continent that has taken its relationship with Africa’s emerging start-up ecosystem seriously. It has launched its own incubators, supported pitch competitions and begun to open up its APIs. It sees these relationships as part of a broader digital transformation of Africa.

Sylvain Béletre talked to Roger-Edgar KRA, Business Development Manager For Open tech Hub in MEA Zone at Orange ‘Technocentre’’.

Orange2 API

Q. From your experience in the field, how is the digital transformation of the African continent happening?

A.  Local businesses that want to take advantage of new mobile uses, or international companies that see Africa as a growth hub, are designing new products and services using the new digital tools: e-commerce platforms, e-health services, job search platforms, MOOCs, mobile advertising, video and music streaming platforms, money transfer, online insurance, smart metering, etc.

Q.  Are these digital solutions meeting the major challenges faced by companies in the region?


A.  Digital tools answer some of the major challenges faced by companies in the region: How to better monetize your solutions? How to make your business more attractive, visible and expand internationally, especially at the pan-African level? How to remove intermediaries? How to reduce distribution costs? How to improve customer experience?

These challenges concern all industry sectors: entertainment, agriculture, health, education, transport, energy, retail, etc.

However, creating a digital service in Africa is a real challenge: IT projects dedicated to the integration of technical platforms require investment and time. In a context where smartphones and the use of data are still emerging, and where the majority of customers do not have a credit card, the context is quite different from other regions in the World. Designing a website or an Android application for smartphones and tablets is only a small part of the answer, you must also know how to monetize them, but also design a version for low cost mobile phone/feature phones, via SMS, Vocal or even USSD.

 

In order to deploy on a large scale, partnering with local telecom operators can boost your footprint. Finally, your media must include the most common payment services. Orange has taken action accordingly.

Q.  How does Orange respond to these challenges?

A.  Orange has for years set up large infrastructure projects within its African subsidiaries in order to simplify and accelerate access to its resources. With these platforms deployed, Orange is now very active in partnering with local players (entrepreneurs, developers, digital agencies, media, etc.), and creating an open innovation ecosystem, bringing together startups and large corporates.

In order to support developers and save them time and money, Orange offers a suite of new business solutions based on three blocks: communication, distribution and payment.

On payment, the 'Pay With Orange' offer allows an Orange mobile customer to be charged for a digital service, by debiting his Orange telephone credit, either once or several times. Orange Money Web Payment allows you to charge an Orange Money customer for a physical or digital service by debiting its Orange Money account.

On improving their communications, Orange's SMS offer allows companies to send customized and automated SMS, for example an appointment reminder, an order confirmation, or a forgotten password.

To support their distribution, our Offer # 303 # My Store is a pan-African "appstore" in USSD, which allows companies to reference a service in a given category, and to charge for subscription through Pay With Orange and soon via Orange Money.

These offers have been deployed on the continent since 2014, with already strong coverage (12 countries for SMS API, 6 for Orange Money Web Payment).

Q.  How many partnerships have you established?

A.  To date, more than 700 African startups have subscribed to Orange's SMS notification service. And 40 services are 'live' on portal # 203 # in Cameroon. Dozens of services use our means of payment, monetize video streaming platforms, information portals, video games...

Q.  Do you have examples of success stories in Africa?

A.  In Senegal, the MLouma startup has created a virtual agricultural platform that publishes real-time information on the price, location and availability of farm products. At its launch, the platform was only available on the Web - making it difficult to access and costly for rural users. Integrating # 303 # My Store has given a very strong impulse to the service: now accessible from any phone, MLouma has gone from 1,000 to 75,000 users in 6 months! In addition, MLouma will be able to federate new users in all the other countries where the platform # 303 # My Store is available without requiring further development. MLouma also integrated the SMS API to alert users of the availability of new products, as well as the MEA DCB service to bill USSD requests.

In Cameroon, the pan-African media group 'Jeune Afrique' has produced a USSD version of its news service, referenced on # 203 # in Cameroon; Just like RFI, TV channel 'France 24', thus allowing 100% of the Orange customer base to access this service, updated in real time. The pan-African deployment of these services is in progress, on short code # 303 #.

For developers ready to use the Orange APIs, the portal is here: 

You can discover other Orange programs related to startups and digital entrepreneurs across Africa, here: 

And do not forget, if you are a young startup, you can currently apply for the Orange Social Entrepreneur Prize.

 

Orange


 

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It is essential reading for anyone trying to understand Africa’s digital transition. If you would like to subscribe, just send an email to info@balancingact-africa.com with Digital Content Africa in the title line. Look at a full list of past issues here:

 

Videos interviews to watch:

Njoki Gichinga on incubator iHub's move and what it will mean for Kenyan start-ups

Riccardo Pasqualotto on how Mobihunter represents both brands and online publications across Africa

Jon Coker, Swyft on running a hackathon in Togo and its electric car parts start-up

James Kabiru, Olive Tree Media on how SMS is a key medium for health and agricultural services

Gillian Ezra and Phil Moore, Deezer on how music streaming needs to change in Africa

Tosh Juma, Nairobi Design Institute on the setting up of a human-centred design course for companies

Justin Reilly on edtech start-up Mwabu's focus on providing support for teachers and learners

Ghana: Emmanuel Noah on start-up BenBen's roll-out of its Blockchain land registry

Steven Murray on Zomato, South Africa's leading restaurant finder app with 750,000 users

Grant Brooke, Twiga Foods on a Kenyan start-up revolutionizing food delivery

Warrick Percy, Capasso on the switch to digital music and being the African mechanical rights hub

Danny Day, QCF Design -on the success of Desktop Dungeons and the reboot of its mobile maths game

Julius Nyingmeh on how Vivabox wants data partnerships with African mobile co's to deliver VoD

Pierre van der Hoven, Tuluntulu on how African mobile content models are changing for the better

Domestly Co-Founders Berno Potgieter and Thatoyaone Marumo on being the Uber for cleaners in SA

Start-up founder Jessica Colaco, Brave Ventures on Big Data in Africa and need for data scientists

Shalini Moodley on creating DRC's leading entertainment web site and a music web TV channel

Mary Mwangi on creating an automated system for collecting cash from Kenya's matatus

Dumebi Anyasi, Optiweb on a Twitter service in Nigeria that uses voice

Olivier Laouchez on how Trace TV's digital offer will make 50% of its revenues in 3 years time

Smartmonkey.tv