Monetization of mobile apps in Africa

Posted on November 24, 2017 12:01 am

There’s a common belief in Africa that apps developers always become instant millionaires once they start developing apps.I want to dispel that notion because its simply a white lie and let me explain why. There are about 50,000 apps on the iOS App Store developed by African countries based developers and only a quarter of those were actually opened once downloaded.In addition, most apps are free to purchase, the average cost of an app is about $0, and only 1% of all apps are actually paid for in Africa. So as a developer based in Cape Town or Cairo it is not easy to make money in such an environment. Up-to date statistics are showing more and more developers are finding alternate ways to make money from apps. In Nigeria and South Africa, some are turning to advertisements, others off-selling consumer details to third party providers and most commonly, in-app purchases, where developers hope consumers get so hooked to the app that they are willing to pay for more features or add-ons. The truth is, it’s really not getting any easier. Recent estimates indicate that only 0.2% of apps are actually financial successes in Africa and by next year, this will whittle down to 0%.That’s why making app development sustainable is more important than ever. When it comes to independent app developers who are the ones that really struggle to make any money from app development, the journey will only get harder as we enter 2018. Those who are thinking about developing an app, I’ll share a few things to consider to ensure you’re not spending endless hours and money on an app that’s only going to get a handful of users.The most popular apps in Africa like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest etc have strong holds on their respective markets and are backed by billionaires. Most developers always think of being the next Facebook or Twitter, but why not? Well, thats a fantasy and being realistic is the most ideal path. My advise would be for you as a developer to find a niche area that you’re passionate about and concentrate on it. For example, if fully focused, its possible to reuse the same framework over and over again to create another app as long as your targeting on one niche.That way you’re not gonna start from scratch each and every time you want to develop an app.My experience in the African, European and Australian markets has taught me that timing is everything.

As a developer, make sure you get the app out fast and don’t spend months building something to only find there is no demand for it. In addition, always important to remember that you can update, refine and add new features once you have a better understanding of user adoption, so don’t try to bake everything into the app on the first run which has led to so many developers failing in their plans.My view would be get the app out as soon as possible and spend as little time and money as you can on creating the app, at least until you know how successful it will be.More than two decades ago, as a young coder, I learned that there’s lots to think about when developing an app beyond just writing the code to make the app work.Maintaining the app to avoid experiencing server failure due to heavy traffic, which can take down your app and hugely impact on the user experience is one are that any developer should never ignore. In fact, its a priority. Traditionally, whenever I have an app up and running, I closely monitor how much traction the app is actually getting. Me knows all too well that I don’t need to just look at download rates but open and use rates as well. That matters to me because users interacting with the app makes me more satisfied than even making money.Once that happens, I invest a bit more time into adding and refining features. If that were to fail, assessing whether it makes sense to keep investing in the app or if it’s time to back out is an ideal thought that demands a decision. My opinion is that a developer shouldn’t be ashamed that his app has failed, even Google has had tens of apps that have failed to take off and eventually it discarded them, so, who are you to be bothered.The key to remember as a developer whether in Lagos or Nairobi is that consumers are so use to downloading mobile apps for free the thought of paying any more than a few coins is absurd. Unless you have a huge development team and resources behind, any business will likely struggle to make it big through app development and to avoid, its important to be realistic when approaching app development. I’m not writing this to discourage any would be developer but fact is, it’s not as easy as some may make it out to be, to make money with app development. Understanding what’s already out there is critical and as a developer don’t spend huge amounts of time and effort until your certain know the app will be a success.A decade ago, your blogger’s friend currently working at Google said that as it becomes even easier for almost anyone to create apps it will only become increasingly harder to make any money and requires dedication and nous to get it right and make some good moolah!


Contador Harrison