The African app economy in 2017

Posted on December 11, 2017 12:04 am

The app ecosystem has emerged as the primary interface in which Africans are spending a huge portion of their time, and increasingly money as well. According to the latest data, 78 per cent of Africans smartphone usage is in-app, equating to around an hour per day in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.African countries are witnessing a fundamental shift in media consumption, considering the channel was non-existent less than eight years ago. African products, brands, developers, media, agencies and of course the app stores have commercialized the app ecosystem in an enormous way over the last five years. The app ecosystem is predicted to surge on given a sharp over 100 per cent increase of installed smartphones in the same period.The vast majority of these 50 million additional smartphone in African users will come from markets across East and West Africa, where smartphone costs are falling to feature phone levels.Most Africans installed 28 apps on average, lower than in developed world where an average user installs 50 apps on his or her smartphone.Africans use six of the 28 apps daily, ten apps regularly, and eight others occasionally. The remaining 4 apps are never used. Only twenty per cent apps are installed by the user himself. The rest are pre-installed apps and it is a big challenge to retain apps in the heart of a user.How mobile stakeholders will sustain the growth seen in recent years, depends on a couple of issues especially the implications of the changing app market.The mobile industry to date has enjoyed the proliferation of the app install channel, with apps able to buy high volumes of installs very efficiently. Whilst, in many cases, this remains an effective tactic today in influencing user acquisition across Africa, it’s likely that such will plateau install volumes in African markets.Apps will need to begin building upon their traditional app install to maintain visibility.It follows that Africa is likely to see a greater focus on both paid and organic ranking efforts within the app stores.It is good to remember that nine out of ten Africans startups failed because they only tried to copy ideas from existing global apps and create African or individual country’s versions.

Most app developers are motivated at the beginning of the projects, but then fail to maintain the user engagement. Therefore, many users discarded the apps.A bigger chunk of African app developers that your blogger has come across do not think about the problems they need to solve.For a market like Africa based on your blogger’s experience, there are several things to consider.Among them is to build small apps for people, optimize data usage because the memory and data speed are limited, and think about how to integrate the offline and online platforms.The emerging reality of African consumers only using 2 app per category, it’s clear that the well-established apps appearing above the fold in charts and search results are going to have a very distinct advantage.With overall app usage still increasing despite the app install plateau, there’s an opportunity for these established apps to move out of user acquisition, into the in-app revenue growth phase and your blogger has no doubt that dominant apps experimenting with new in-app models will be the most successful.Even though acquisition remains pivotal to most apps, for many there is an increasing focus on how best to monetise existing active users. One of the leading attribution providers in the Africans market recently noted that just 12 per cent of users remain active beyond a week of installing an app. Re-engagement technology  is hence set to increase in demand.In my view, the app re-engagement should not only retarget lapsed or dormant users. There’s need for upselling high value spenders, pushing promotional or seasonal campaigns, and cross-promotion are also emergent strategies.In Africa mobile app economy has largely been fueled by direct response advertising, with markets like Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Tanzania and Tunisia focusing heavily on acquisition efficiency  and attribution technology integration.Android, the leading operating system in Africa gaining scale across multiple devices like smart watches, connected TVs, tablet computers, there’s greater potential for brand advertising. The ability to reach a single user across all of these devices has never been easier and is one, that the app ecosystem in Africa can accomplish.Despite the success subscription services such as ShowMax, ITV Popote, Netflix among others have seen in the past year, it’s highly possible that apps existing across multiple channels will branch out to experiment with ad funded models.In my view, mature mobile markets in Africa like Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria face a changing app economy but there’s every indication that there remains considerable potential for further growth.

Contador Harrison