Mobile App development market in Africa

Posted on November 22, 2017 12:13 am

Latest data shows that Africa’€™s mobile application developers are on the rise, in line with the high growth of smartphone sales across the continent and the increasing social and entertainment needs of users. Local developers from South Africa to Nigeria from Egypt to Kenya, from Zambia to Senegal, Cameroon to Tunisia are exploring strategies to build up their companies and compete in the rapidly growing industry.The compounded annual growth rate of the mobile app industry in Africa last year was in excess of 21% something that the app developers in the region can take a lot of heart from. The continent occupies the last spot in terms of revenues for app developers behind North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. However, mobile app development is a thriving business in Africa and all indicators point to further, and rapid, growth of this domain in the foreseeable future.An annual growth rate of over 90% should be enough to prove this, but there are other figures to further highlight the white-hot mobile app revolution in Africa. The yearly value of the app industry is in excess of $900 million, and there are more than 5,000 mobile app companies in Africa. What’s more, well over 20,000 professional developers are in this profession on a full-time basis. The app-makers’ contingent is truly huge, and growing.A key factor behind the success of Android and iPhone app developers in Africa is the strong demand levels. Nearly 4 out of every 10 smartphone users in Africa download mobile apps regularly. The popularity of apps is, however not uniform across age groups with youngsters in the 18-24 age group being the more heavy users with 70% people in this age group downloading applications. The smartphone usage figure falls to around 36% among individuals who are of 60 or more years of age. Only 1 out of 10 of these users on average are regular downloaders of mobile apps.There was a spurt in 2016 in the number of social networking applications churned out by mobile app developers in Africa. The reason for this is the burgeoning popularity of such apps with close to 69% users fond of using at least one of such applications especially those in the 18-24 age group, once again, love these apps the most. Mobile game development companies in South Africa and Egypt have also upped their game, with gaming apps increasing their popularity. Apps with web browser support are a close third, while direction and navigation apps are also getting popular.Most important African cities have a fair few mobile app development companies but Cape Town, South Africa is the runaway leader with highest number of mobile app startups in the continent being located there.

The professional success of the developers in Cape Town has only encouraged many new entrepreneurs to get their feet wet in the mobile app business. If you are looking to find a good iOS or Android developer in Africa, you are almost certain to find several in Cape Town. Other cities where talent is significant include Cairo, Johannesburg, Tunis, Nairobi, Lagos and Accra.A strong sign that the mobile app market in Africa is developing is the fact that nearly everyone can identify at least one key benefit that regular app-usage provides them with. For most people, it is the ease with which custom apps facilitate mobile shopping and M-banking especially in East African region where mobile banking is thriving. The fact that apps provide instantaneous access to the information and service that users are seeking is also an important factor behind their popularity. In addition, a growing number of app developers in Africa create applications that retain their functionality offline. Even when a user does not have 3/4G coverage or wifi network coverage on his or her device, he or she can still keep using his or her favorite apps.In my experience of developing apps that are used by millions in African markets, I have found it as vital for developers anywhere to put prime emphasis on user-experience, while developing apps. In East and Southern African countries, this factor is all the more prominent since nearly 50% smartphone users look around to their friends, family members and other acquaintances for their opinions on an app, before they decide to download it. In comparison, only about 10% people consider app store reviews as the biggest influencing factor. The message is clear enough for developers in the region that if an app is not up to user-expectations at the first go, it is likely to find the going tough in future.Android phones are the dominant phones in African market with around 75% sales followed by iOS devices as per official 2016 data. The rest of the market is taken up by Windows Phones. Interestingly, South Africa still boasts of the highest penetration of iOS devices in Africa followed by Nigeria, and Apple is comfortably the most popular smartphone brand in the continent because the popularity of Android gets divided among its many vendors from Samsung, Huawei, HTC, LG among other brands. The demand for expert Android developers in Africa is growing, despite the fact that iOS apps have more or less maintained their steady demand levels.A survey earlier this year revealed that 64% people in Kenya, Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria use mobile apps for social networking purposes, while a measly 18% use websites for the same purpose. This distribution is similar across males and females. Even among senior people, among whom app-usage is the least, over 40% use social networking applications, and around 22% rely on websites.According to general users researches that have been done in recent years, as well as mobile app development experts in Africa, there is a general wariness regarding sharing personal information on applications. As a developer myself I can only say the onus is on African developers to convince users regarding the reliability of their apps’ security features. In-app purchases, location-sharing information and accidental downloads are also factors that the app-makers have to handle very carefully.

Contador Harrison