49 Ideas For Mobile Business in Africa

money-mobile-africaIn 2012  Africa became the fastest growing continent in the world with the highest number of new millionaires. There are now more than 100,000 millionaires in Africa and about 20.000 new millionaires will be added every 3 years.

Wanna join the rank?

From all the business opportunities available in Africa mobile telecommunication services are one of the most profitable. During the next few years about 3 billions new people will join the current 2.27 billion Internet  users. More than 1 billion of this new Internet users will come from Africa.

These newcomers will use the Internet in a completely different ways and will also have completely different needs and expectations.

In this post I listed 49 ideas that could be a starting point for a profitable business in the Mobile industry in Africa. Some are self-evident, some look funny, and few of them could be developed into something big.

Before we get started, let have a quick look at how Africans are currently using the Internet, taking Kenya as a sample market.

According to a September 2011  survey done by  the Communication Commission of Kenya 99% of the people in Kenya access the Internet with their mobile phone and the top 3 usages are : email, social media and conducting research.

Internet use by internet activities in Kenya 2011
Communicating (Email/social media) 88.1%
Getting information about good and services 19%
Getting information from government organizations, public authorities 18.2%
Reading/downloading electronic books, newspaper or magazine 19.7%
Playing/downloading games 18.3%
Watching movies/TV 14.2%
Getting information related to health/health services 8.3%
Purchasing or ordering goods or services 6.9%
Internet banking 3.2%
Research 33.2%
Other 3.3%
Source: CCK ICT Survey, September 2011

Now, here are our 49 ideas for you to explore:

1.    Be on Time or Get a Fine App

Africans are known for 2 things: they are poor and they are never on time. Now, You imagine an app that let you agree on a fine to be paid for every minute a person is late to a meeting.

The app will be used to agree on a meeting time and also on the fine per every minute a person is late. The app is connected to the mobile subscriber account or mobile wallet, and the fine is  automatically charged to his account, maximum $15 per meeting.

The money is either transferred to the person who arrived on time at the meeting or to a charity. If all the people who have agreed on the meeting are late, all participants are fined and the money could be donated to a charity.

Mobile developers interested to explore this app idea will need to think a bit more about the edges, but this is a Killer app for the African market where people are chronically late.


2.    GSM signal Guided Driving and Location App

Streets in most African cities, include the big ones are not well indexed with street names and numbers. However, mobile penetration in big cities is almost 100%. Therefore the opportunity for an app that would use the GMS signal of the mobile phone of the people you are going to meet and or the people at the place you are going to, to guide you using a combination of GSM signal and available data on the main streets and know routes.

After some time, the app will learn enough to map out people routes, and become a useful location, driving and destination app.


3.    Literacy neutral mobile social network

Most Mobile users in Africa are illiterate. They don’t know how to write. There is an additional group of people who are literate or semi-literate but don’t like to write. My estimate is that this group make up to 70% of mobile phones users in Africa. People in this group can’t write their contacts name in their phone contact book, but keep flying papers with themselves to enter every time their contacts’ number.

There is big market for a literacy neutral social network, where people can communicate with each other using online images, icons, illustrations and voices, contrary to text-based social network like Facebook or Twitter.

Entrepreneurs who will take on this challenge and execute it well will be rewarded with a highly scalable profitable business.


4.    Alcohol Test App

Alcohol Test apps are much needed in big urban areas in Africa to help prevent car and motorcycle accidents. These app would be based on voice or motion pattern recognition, or using the “walk-straight” test on motion control test.

These kind of app could be done with the sponsorship of Ministry of Public health, Ministry of transportation or some non profit organizations.


5.    Infidelity checking  app

In Lagos it looks like every one is sleeping with everyone. Mobile app for tracking spouses or  checking on partners loyalty will be controversial but wildly popular with women and jealous men.


6.    Visual search App

European culture is based on the written word, while African culture is more visual and oral. Voice and image enabled apps would have the power to conquer the future of the African mobile experience.

African entrepreneurs who will avoid importing blindly European model in Africa, but leverage their unique knowledge of the African market will be reward with much more profitable business.

Investing in voice enabled search and image enabled search are one of the several ways to go.


7.    Luxury & Exclusive Boutique app

The “new rich” in Africa love glamor, exclusivity and luxury. Luxury items boutiques readily accessible on smartphones, with proven delivery logistic would be much more profitable than most of the general ecommerce sites that are currently popping around aimlessly.

In some African cities like Lagos, Nairobi, Luanda, Abidjan there are  from 5000 to 9.000 millionaires in each of those cities! (It’s estimated that there are more than 100,000 millionaires in Africa, and Africa is now the most fast growing continent with new millionaires)


8.    Bazaar Real time price comparison

My father would love an app like that. Before going to be Bazaar shopping he would open the app and check the different merchants price.

The app would also include  a ‘Make Me an Offer’ function to give possibility to negotiate the prices, as it’s custom in all African markets.

This kind of app will be a huge step forward to bringing the huge African informal sector online.


9.    Mobile Forensic

Mobile phones data recovery for personal or legal purpose will be a growing market in the upcoming years.

The demand will come from individuals as well as local laws enforcement authorities.


10.   Mobile SEO

The Web Search Engine Optimization services have made more Internet millionaires and feed more families in India than any other Internet segment.

Mobile SEO is just nascent, but would likely follow the exponential growth of the web SEO.

The most important thing here is to position yourself to address the upper side of the market made of the banks, telecom companies, big retailers, etc.


11.    Mobile based access control App

Access control technology and equipment could be very expensive, clumsy, and easily hijacked, while authenticating and confirming people with their mobile phone you have much better results.

Mobile phones, unlike the traditional badges, are private gadgets, quite intimate that people always carry with themselves.

These kind of  app could be first targeted to human resources department helping them to check in and check out employees  using their mobile phones, include feature phones.


12.    Literacy neutral flirt/dating App

Like the literacy neutral social network mentioned above, a literacy neutral dating website will reach much more people, and fit into the habits of the majority of African mobile users: image or voice enabled services.

What we need to keep in mind constantly is that the current Internet was built for literate people, and therefore exclude more than include. The next frontier of the Internet if to lend a hand to the world of illiterate people and include them.


13.    Mobile advertising (Media house business)

The role of a media house is to help advertisers identify and select the most influential medias to advertise their products and service, and work with the most creative agencies to create the best advertising copies to reach their target market.

There are lot of mobile medias out there, and a lot of advertisers willing to try them out. But the missing link is the lack of good media houses on the subject, which explains why the potential of the mobile advertising market in Africa is still unexplored, like an art market without appraisers.


14.    City Guide app

City guide apps help local business and consumers. From restaurants to local events, most of african cities still lack authoritative guide.


15.    News community app

Big cities like Lagos or even Nigeria as country need their own news community like Reddit.com  in the United States.

News communities help citizens have a more critical lecture of the deluge of information that reaches them and also help them organize to surface news that the big medias will never be interested in.


16.    Local coupons, rewards and loyalty app

People love coupons, rewards everywhere. Local coupons, rewards, and loyalty app are much needed and will be popular with consumers.


17.    Mobile affiliate network

Affiliates network are the lifeblood the internet commerce. E-commerce giant like Amazon.com got off the ground only with the help of thousands affiliates. The same for Groupon.com.

Most local ecommerce portals needs their local affiliate network. Affiliate networks are very profitable business.


18.    Social TV app

African audience engage very intensely with the content they consume on TV.  There is an opportunity hare to capture the conversation that goes with that engagement on giant ‘wall’ or ‘stadium’ where people share and comment.


19.    Mobile education app

Mobile education is nascent, but the future is going there.

In Africa people don’t read. Video, Voice, and image based education is the way to go.

Audiobooks, podcasts, video tutorials, and self-evident  illustrations content should be the main medium.


20.    Visual FirstAid app

The app should be  a library of  first aid guides using podcasts, video tutorials, and self-evident illustrations content


21.    Local Traffic app

Cities like Abidjan, Lagos are overly crowded with cars, and the is currently very little help for drivers about driving conditions, closed roads,  car accidents, etc.

The traffic app could be a crowd sourced information app or based on automatically sourced information from opt-in  taxi drivers using their mobile phone positioning and motion information.


22.    Taxi app

Calling a taxi in many African cities is not easy. Simple but highly customized local  Taxi app will serve well the growing westernized middle class in African big cities.


23.    Virtual mobile network operators

Mobile services resellers market is an upcoming market in Africa, because the growing competition within mobile network operators will encourage the emergence of virtual operators who get bulk price and customize the service to suit a niche or a particular population segment.

Here, innovation is welcome, but there lot of good model in Europe, USA, India that could be easily replicated in Africa.


24.    African Radios app

Like the news community mentioned above, Radio app would act like a directory for easy access to various streaming source like does tunein.com


25.    Citywide Skype enable Wi-fi

Voice and data cost are still very expensive in Africa. Building a city wide network of wi-fi hotspots where people could easily exchange data and make call over IP will be appealing to the data hungry youngsters.


26.    Alternative Mobile connection network: Wimax, LightRadio, WhiteSpace

Technologies like LightRadio, WhiteSpace, have alternative potential compared to their most dominant counterparts like LTE and EDGE.

Entrepreneurs with strong technical background and good political skills could bet on creating alternative network while closing exclusive deals early upon with the licensors.


27.    Single Application Interface to Mobile developers

Plugging into different telecoms companies platforms to create service for end-users is currently a task that intimidate most developers.

There is need for an independent but strong third party that deal with the various telecom companies and create  Single Application Interface for  Mobile developers, something like Twilio.com has done in USA, and Alcatel Lucent has done in France.


28.    Mobile Money

Mobile Money is a very crowded area, but all the players looking into the same direction like all the search engine companies before Google.

This is a huge market, and only the surface has been scratched by folks like M-Pesa. Smart entrepreneurs with gut for huge and transformational disruption should spend time on research and development and go after the current front runners with hot in their neck.


29.    Car, home, kids security app

App that could help monitor the security of private properties are in demand all of the world, but more in Africa in the big urban areas because of prevalent insincerity.


30.    Video marketing

Text and display ads will reach only a selective audience in Africa, but video marketing delivered over the mobile phone will reach 7 times more.

Offering native video format integrated into app is huge market to explore.


31.    Radio/voice marketing

Radio is the biggest media in Africa. Voice marketing format or Radio advertising integrated into app will be much more effective than the traditional text/image based advertising format.

My grandfather would listen to a voice ad, and call me to to go the market check out a product. It won’t happen with a text ad or a display copy!


32.    Mobile content Producer

All medias are hungry of content. The new mobile media need more than any other medias good content producers. It could be small video, cartoons, text, comics, stories, new summary, photos, etc.

There is  a big market for African content producer and content distribution houses.


33.    City TaskRabbit – LagosRabbits.com

In big African cities informal market or Bazaar there are hundred of service providers. The are freelancers moving stuff, up or down loading trucks or doing  delivery.

There are also transportation companies, suppliers, etc. A taskrabbit.com kind of app would greatly facilitate the market and also make it more efficient.


34.    Price comparison app

Lack of price comparison tools make commerce very time consuming, inefficient and subject to predatory pricing.

The lack of business and price information makes Africa the continent where the cost of market information is the  highest, and also the place where the number of intermediaries between producers and consumers is very high.

This is a big market to serve.


35.    Mobile analytics

Web analytics has helped the ecommerce and advertising on the web to grow and also reach a level of high efficiency.

Mobile analytics products  and expertise would be much in demand in the upcoming years.


36.    Mobile app testing

This could be a mobile app usability Agency that offers usability and quality test to advertisers and web studios.


37.    Mobile Alerts

Like  ‘Google Alert’ was once for the web, the  new emergent  mobile world need similar service which would alert about their mention over the mobile world.


38.    Africa theme for Mobile accessories

Mobile Phones accessories is a big business, but this market is missing African designers to create Africa sensitive themes targeting the local affluents.


39.    Local WhosisWho

Everyone want to be in the WhoisWho. A well curated country or city focused WhoisWho could be la ucrative business.


40.    Mobile job portal

Job advertising on mobile phone is very different from job listing on the web. New format are much needed and customization to adapt to local market will be key for long term success.


41.    Mobile phones recycling

Mobile phone reselling marketplace. Clever entrepreneurs will also lobby their local government to collect a tax on recycling the millions of soon to be abandoned feature phones in Africa.


42.    Hospitality App

There lot of small hotels and hospitality places in Africa which has the potential to attract local and international tourists but they have no presence on the Internet or  anyway to make available their booking system.

This kind of business will take some hard work to get started, but will bring lot of satisfaction to the entrepreneurs.


43.    Auto parts store App

Auto parts is a big business in Africa, but inventory management is as chaotic as the continent itself.

The car repair shops owners have to go from one store to another, sometime visiting up to 5 before luckily finding the part they are looking for.

An app for auto and electric part is huge business. I know quite well how this could be transformed into a multimillion business.


44.    Certified professionals directory app

Finding Professionals you could trust is a big issue in many places in Africa. A company with a directory of certified professionals who could be backed with a guaranty of service will be very welcomed.

The trust economy is a fast growing segment of the global economy of goods and services.


45.    Mobile Geeks

This would be a directory app  for computer repairs geeks, locksmiths, plumbers, moving companies, etc.


46.    Local weather app

There lot of international general weather forecast information for Africa, but there is complete lack of  actionable local weather information targeting the general population.

This app should go beyond the simple temperature forecast, and include weather forecast with illustrations people understand and also customized short term and long term warning notifications.


47.    Pre-paid all-inclusive phone for Tourists

Pre-paid all-inclusive mobile phone for Tourists has been very popular in many places in the work. They could be replicated here in Africa. Visitors would pick the phone and start calling without all the hassles involved in getting a local SIM card and prepaid cards.


48.    Greeting cards app

Greetings cards websites were very popular on the web, and still are among the most visited websites in the world.

Now is the  time for mobile native greetings card services integrated with popular social networks.


49.   Bad Debtors App

Simple app to keep a tab on all the people who owe you money.

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About Mawuna KOUTONIN

Mawuna Koutonin is a world peace activist who relentlessly works to empower people to express their full potential and pursue their dreams, regardless of their background. He is the Editior of SiliconAfrica.com, Founder of Goodbuzz.net, and Social activist for Africa Renaissance. Koutonin’s ultimate dream is to open a world-class human potential development school in Africa in 2017. If you are interested in learning more about this venture or Koutonin’s other projects, you can reach him directly by emailing at mk@linkcrafter.com.

5 Responses to “49 Ideas For Mobile Business in Africa”

  1. Namolie Brent

    With more Africans having access to smartphones, there is no better time to invest in app than now. Mobile phone related business is still expected to see more positive shift in the coming years in Africa.

  2. Victor

    Nice creative post!

    However, the figures from the CCK ICT Survey, September 2011 research you present are a bit strange. 33% do research? Research in what? I realise they are also in the original report, but that does not make them better 🙂

  3. elijah

    @ victor Kenyans are hardworking the research is 33% because currently many young Kenyans are in universities secondly because of the high unemployment rate many Kenyans are doing online jobs such as article writing,market researching, writing business plans a at http://www.odesk.com,www.freelancer.com,www.elance.com i hope you are well answered


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