Africa is well-known for being a hub of mobile development, and despite challenges with infrastructure and connectivity, African entrepreneurs are consistently building and launching a variety of innovative applications.
But even with an obviously mobile-focused population, and millions of people using any number of apps every day, it’s difficult to get a comprehensive overview of which apps are fulfilling real business and social needs (besides the variety of successful apps that we have built, obviously!).
What are some of the most popular apps in Africa?
Of course, large scale apps like WhatsApp have insane reach in Africa, and have had a phenomenal impact on communication, but in this case, we’re more interested in apps that have been built specifically for an African audience.
It’s not that easy to get data on every single app used in the continent when writing just a short blog though, so to keep things simple, we had a look at all the apps that won “best of” at last year’s 2017 AppsAfrica Awards. These apps span a range of industries, and give us a focused insight into current challenges and opportunities:
Based in Kenya, Flare is focused on providing efficient solutions in emergency situations, and has been compared to Uber when it comes to managing complex resources, including everything from ambulances to fire fighting teams.
Built for both private and public healthcare and transportation, Flare takes the function of its name a bit further by not only alerting emergency response teams to an incident, but also providing a way for them to communicate and respond quickly, with the added benefit of data insights to continuously improve their service (and identify problem areas).
Accessing low-bandwidth educational resources is essential throughout the continent, especially in rural areas where getting hold of print textbooks can be expensive and difficult.
With an impressive range of services, Snapplify works with publishers all over the continent to not only sell ebooks and other educational resources so they can be accessed online on a mobile or tablet, but also to manage their distribution and get valuable information about how their books are used.
It might sound like a gimmick at first, but using quite a simple concept, What3Words won more than one award at the 2017 AppsAfrica event.
By dividing the world into 3m x 3m squares and assigning each of them a name, delivering goods and finding places all over the world becomes so much easier, especially in remote areas where there often aren’t house numbers or street names.
With the expansion of logistics services in Africa, for example with the use of drones, it’s clear that mapping out the world provides infinite opportunities for business expansion.
It’s impossible to think of walking down the street and not hearing someone’s music playing off their phone, or seeing someone locked into their own headspace with a set of earphones.
While Spotify and Apple Music are edging their way into the African market, Boomplay is the number #1 music app in Africa, with over 1 million active daily users. What’s innovative about this platform is that it gives African artists a way to sell their music online, by integrating with locally applicable payment options, like mobile money.
We’ve talked a lot about mobile payments in Africa in previous posts, so it’s no surprise that there are a number of different apps that are capitalising on the potential of financial services to change the lives of a largely “unbanked” African population.
With head offices in San Francisco, and satellite offices in Accra, Johannesburg and Lagos, Flutterwave takes simple payment integrations a step further by facilitating easier global payments into and out of Africa, by supporting multiple currencies.
Another reason why FinTech applications are getting a lot of attention in Africa is that it’s easier to provide a variety of financial services to a growing population that isn’t loyal to any one bank.
We featured JUMO in a previous article on Fintech in Africa, but thought we’d mention them again since they won the award for Changing Africa at the 2017 AppsAfrica awards, with the way they’re using data to create what they call “financial identities” (which allows entrepreneurs to access finance that they probably wouldn’t have been able to using a traditional bank).
What is the future of app development in Africa?
It’s obvious that there is so much potential for app development in Africa, especially considering that all of this innovation is happening within infrastructural limitations. Imagine how different the landscape will look as connectivity improves?
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