In Africa, data prices are becoming more competitive, smart and feature phones are more accessible to people across the continent, and more people have access to mobile internet. This increased usage of phones means there is space for more and more mobile phone applications, that solve problems specific to Africa. More and more developers in Africa are turning to build apps for their countries, in the hope that there creation will be the next best thing in the African tech world.
A lot of the innovations we are seeing in the mobile world within Africa are coming out of Easters and Southern Africa, but Earlier this month, the West Africa Mobile Awards unveiled this years 10 winners, seeking to bring the focus back to the tech excellence in West Africa. With over 1040 applicants from 14 countries, the awards were hotly contested. Awards were given in the areas of commerce and retail, Fintech, Mobile education, mobile innovation, mobile marketing campaign and social impact, social news and entertainment.
A couple of apps that we have featured previously on Inventive Africa picked up awards. Flutterwave, took home the Fintech award and BattaBox also picked up the Social, News and Entertainment award. We have chosen our favourites of the rest to feature below.
Buying online is making shopping easier, and giving us access to a larger variety of things. But, sometimes there is an issue with trust surrounding a vendor. Going into a shop, discussing with the shop assistant gives you that trust and helps the vendor and client build a relationship. It is good for both parties. BuyChat, a Nigerian app, is enabling people to do exactly that, but through their phones. It gives you all the convenience of online shopping but enables you to build relationships with the merchant, via chat, using your Whatsapp number.
One of the joys of shopping in Africa is the haggling and negotiating. Creating a system that enables buyers to chat with those they are buying from online, gives them the opportunity to negotiate a price with the merchant.
Through BuyChat, users can buy good from merchants at local markets, book flights and hotels, order food and connect with their favourite brands. There is even a section on their to connect with celebrities!
NairaBox won the best app award at the event. Their product is another innovative mobile payment system that enables users to pay bills, buy mobile credit, buy event and movie tickets, or even donate to charity from the comfort of your own home, work, or on the move.
M-Pesa changed the game for mobile payments in Africa, but much of the continent is still lagging behind. Mobile payments and transfers are possible, but only in limited circumstances. Nairabox takes Nigeria a step closer to the standard set in Kenya. The convenience of being able to pay for things liek airtime from anywhere takes away the some of the many frustrations associated with paying. In my case, I have on many occasions had to roam the streets desperately looking for a credit seller. When it is raining, and everyone has run for shelter, it can be very difficult to find a vendor. No credit often means no work, or no possibility to call someone in an emergency, so instant recharging through the app is a great tool. The same goes for paying bills. Travelling somewhere to pay a bill is simply inefficient and there are so many variables that can mean you waste your time.
I expect more and more apps in the near future that help overcome some of the issues that hold up productivity and efficiency. Traffic, the rain, and so many other things often get in the way of plans. Technology, and especially mobile apps, have the chance to make things work, just that little bit more smoothly.
In much of the ‘developed’ world, apps are now taken for granted. We get our news, check out bank accounts, order food, play games, check the weather and even turn on and off out lights through apps. In Africa, and other locations that are swiftly bringing more and more people online, apps can approach and offer solutions to problems that plague the continent. Apps are enabling the unbanked to join the financial system, enhancing savings for rainy days, or health insurance. Apps are enabling people to sell their products more easily. They are helping students gain access to information and even take online degrees, where they previously wouldn’t have been able to afford to.
Technology is changing lives, and Africa Innovation for Africa is becoming a big industry.
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