When compared to other regions, Africa has consistently been the fastest growing region year on year in terms of internet adoption.
As at November 2015, there were over 328 million Africans on the internet. This is the pie we are all fighting for. When we zoom into individual countries, it gets even smaller. Sadly, only 28% of its population is on the internet. This means that more than half of the market is still untapped, unconnected.
Herein lies the battle to be fought.
So how do we get the other 72% on the internet? I don’t think it’s a matter of technology or a lack of it. Transformation and innovation have always been less of the technology and more of the strategy – How do we use ‘this’ to make ‘that’ better?
Bringing it into context, how do we make the internet a necessity? More of a pain reliever and less of a vitamin? Or maybe more of both?
I’m almost convinced that the answer to this is a solution around communication. According to this digital report, social media and instant messaging accounts for over 90% of what Nigerians are doing on the internet.
Aside from what the data says, the point of entry for internet today is the mobile device. A mobile device is primarily created as a means of communication. Everything else is an added value.
The next African who will use the internet for the first time will be using it a means of communication first – not payment, eCommerce, gaming, etc.
Hence, anything that simplifies communication, makes it more engaging, and is built on a platform to connect the unconnected – the Internet – is mostly going to be the winner, in my opinion.
Little wonder Facebook and its prized acquisition whatsApp seem to be winning the battle. We might as well just crown them king, yes? Actually, No.
In the African market, Facebook is not king, at least not yet. The social network is the most widely used social network in all of Africa including Lagos, Nigeria, yet, it serves only 10% of the African market, and 38% of the African internet market. How else can we spell opportunity?
In the book Zero to 1, Peter Thieu opines that the next successful entrepreneur will not build another Google or Facebook to succeed. In Africa, this may not be so.
The African interpreneur(s), the one(s) who will bell this cat, may have to build something to compete with Google or Facebook to cater to this untapped market.
They won’t be competing on technology, but rather, on the solutions they can create using technology as leverage. Simple solutions, nothing extravagant, that solve everyday issues.
Till we are able to open up the unconnected 72%, the average African interpreneur will continue to sweat. Only businesses that can stay afloat till this untapped market is opened up will smile to the bank.
We have the brains, the market is there – a young agile population, compared to the aging population of the rest of the world, increasing penetration of cheap smartphone devices, falling cost of data. Plus we are experts at leapfrogging technological development; hopefully, we will find investors who are ready to sweat it out with us.
It will be very painful to me if African intrepreneurs don’t win this war because there will be no justification whatsoever for it.
Digital Transformation| Digital Strategy| Product Management| Market Research & Intelligence