Sub-Saharan Africa’s digital life – Who’s up and who’s down among the apps, a comparison between 2019 and 2021

23 September 2021

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Now the initial app roll-outs are long gone by, it is worth focusing on who is continuing to grow their app users and who is stagnating. Below is data for five key areas and Russell Southwood looks at who the winners and losers are.

This week I’m going to look at the world of apps in Africa and compare key data from 2019 with current data. It’s a quick guide to who’s up and who’s down in key areas of Africa’s digital life using Google Apps Play Store data.

Ride hailing: Out of the selected ride hailing apps, there have been three big winners. Kenya’s Little has gone from 100,000+ on the Google Play Store to 500,000+, expanding the number of countries it operates in. Ethiopia’s Ride has grown from 50,000+ to 500,000+ and Angola’s Allo Taxi from 10,000+ to 50,000+. Other ride hailing operations have remained static: South Africa’s YooKoo Rider (5,000+) and Tanzania’s Twende (50,000+). Some have even gone down: Kenya’s driver-operated Bebabeba (from 10,000+ to 1,000+) and Nigeria Carxie (from 1,000+ to 10+).

Food delivery: With the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns (and with only one exception), the food delivery apps have all grown. One of the apps (KFC, delivered by Jumia) has split into two:

                                                            2019               2020

Debonairs Pizza (S.Africa)                1m+                1m+

Mr D (S.Africa)                                  500,000+       1m+

KFC Deliveries (E.Africa)                  10,000+         100,000+

KFC Kenya                                         -                       5,000+

Yum Deliveries                                  1,000+            10,000+

Phone self-service: This has been a big push by mobile operators looking to cut the costs of things like call centres. With the exception of My Safaricom (which has remained at 1 m+), the other three have all increased significant. Orange et Moi in Cote d’Ivoire from 500,000+ to 1 million+; My Vodafone in Ghana from 100,000+ to 500,000+; and My Orange in Cameroon from 100,000+ to 500,000+.

Banking and money transfer: Out of five apps chosen in 2019, three have increased their downloads: South Africa’s FNB from 1 m+ to 5 m+; Guaranty Bank from 50,000+ to 100,000+; and Orange Money in Senegal from 100,000+ to 1 m+. The other two (Nigeria’s GT Bank and pan-continental Ecobank) are both stuck at 1m+.

Entertainment and edutainment: Of the nine apps chosen, five (OLX.co.ug, Kerawa, Beep Tool, Matatu and Gidi Mobile) are not available as they were in 2019. This sector has significant churn and also things like games are successful for a 1 year to 18 months before users crave something else. Among the music streamers, Uganda’s Hawwe has increased from 50,000+ to 100,000+ but Unitel’s Kisom in Angola has remained static at 100,000+, as has Nexttel Cameroon’s video streamer Nexttel TV. Gamer Gidi Mobile seems to have a new edutainment app, GidiMoEd which has 100,000 downloads compared to Gidi Mobile’s previous 1,000+.

It is worth repeating the warning that download numbers are no indication of how many active users there are. However, if the number of downloads is increasing, it seems likely that the app’s active users are more likely to be a larger proportion of overall downloads.

In Brief

TECNO Mobile recently established official security response center (SRC) (https://bit.ly/3u1eNxV), a platform for cooperation and exchanges between TECNO and security industry experts, researchers and organizations. This remarks a strategic move that reiterates TECNO’s consistent commitment on security and help upgrade TECNO’s security ecosystem to a higher level.

Orange has signed an agreement with Ericsson to expand its Orange Money operations in Africa and the Middle East. Orange Money was launched in 2008 and is now available to 60 million subscribers in seventeen countries across Africa and the Middle East, apparently it enabling €62 billion in transactions last year.

The Ericsson Wallet Platform positions itself as agile and scalable, just as any bit of B2B software needs to be these days. We’re told it will provide ‘a more agile and compliant IT architecture to enhance performance in managing the flow of transactions.’ This, in turn, will make it easier for Orange to expand and adapt its service across the continent.

Gambian telecoms regulator the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) has ordered mobile operator Comium to suspend its services due to its failure to pay licensing, spectrum and international gateway fees, The Point newspaper reports. PURA stated that Comium Gambia has been served with a notice of suspension and given up to 1 October 2021 to show cause why the regulator should not suspend its operating licences for non-payment of licence and frequency fees for 2020 and 2021 plus international gateway levies, adding that ‘all Comium subscribers are advised to secure an alternative service provider pending the final determination of this matter.’ The statement continued: ‘The public is further informed that Comium has been directed by the Authority to inform all its subscribers of the suspension notice served to them and Comium’s right to make a written or oral representation to the Authority on or before 1 October 2021. The Authority remains resolved to take into consideration any representation made to it by Comium during the notice period and the extent to which the public is likely to suffer losses, damages, or inconveniences if Comium’s licences are suspended.’

The UK Government through its Africa Technology and Innovation Partnership (ATIP) programme and the UK-Nigeria Tech Hub has expressed its commitment to supporting the Nigeria Start-up Bill (NSB); a joint initiative by Nigeria’s Tech Ecosystem and the Presidency, driven by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

Campaigners in the South African city of Cape Town are trying to halt the building of the African headquarters for Amazon. The first phase of the nearly $300m (£215m) development, which will include the Amazon offices, is set to be completed in two years. However the Khoi and the San are determined to stop it. Tauriq Jenkins, of the Goringhaicona Khoena Council, a Khoi traditional group, says the land has profound historical and cultural value to his people. "This place for us is sacred because it's on a confluence of Liesbeek and Black Rivers. These embankments are known as the birthplace of the Khoena [Khoi] people," he tells the BBC.

Interswitch Group (Interswitch), Africa’s technology-driven company focused on the digitization of payments in Africa, has formed a new strategic partnership with Codebase Technologies (CBT), a global open API banking solution provider, to accelerate the digital banking transformation across the African continent.

To offer efficient and robust services to their customers, KenTrade has entered into a consortium partnership with Cellulant, Ecobank and GAINDE 2000. With this new partnership, Importers and Exporters will enjoy premium services on the TradeNet system; an online platform serves as a single entry point for parties involved in international trade and transport logistics.

MTN Ghana is adopting the ‘MTN Home’ banner for an ‘affordable’ residential internet service facilitating live streaming, video-on-demand and home automation applications, reports Ghanaian news portal Myjoyonline. MTN Home packages also reportedly promise ‘cheaper data, video and voice services to families’ with national coverage scope, although details of the technology platform or other specifics were not immediately disclosed, with the new service not yet advertised on MTN Ghana’s website or social media pages.

Social enterprise Paradigm Initiative (PIN) (https://Paradigmhq.org) known for building an ICT-enabled support system and advocating digital rights in order to improve livelihoods for under-served youth, will be hosting a hybrid festival, from September 20-23, 2021 in Senegal.