Who Will Reign As King of Mobile Social Media in Africa?

Facebook started as a web only company. It has since created a version for people to enjoy on their mobile devices. There’s the HTML5 version of Facebook, the Facebook app for different platforms and the regular Facebook for mobile web [that is not HTML5].

A larger part of Facebook’s profit is coming from ad. These ads are only served on the desktop web. Cramping ads on a 2.8” screen or a 3.5” screen will be evil not deserved by the users. If Facebook decides to cramp ad on mobile version of Facebook, this will alienate users.

In a report compiled by Reuters, Zuckerberg, 27, who started Facebook in his Harvard dorm room 8 years ago, said Facebook’s key priorities in 2012 were to improve its mobile application, to build stronger ties incorporating its social network with other online apps and to create a “transformative” advertising experience. Zuckergerg knows that mobile is the future of media consumption.

64% of internet users in Nigeria are coming from mobile, while only 36% is accessing the web via desktop. In Kenya it is 70% on desktop and 30% on mobile. There is a downward movement in the number of people that are using the desktop as against those that are using the mobile. We see that in February 2011, only about 8% of those accessing the web are doing it via mobile while 92% are accessing the web via desktop.

What happened by February 2012? The total number of Africans that are accessing the web has grown to 20%, while those using desktop fell to 80%. [Startcounter]

In Africa mobile is growing very fast. As we have seen in Nigeria, mobile usage of the web has surpassed the desktop. There are various things that may be responsible for this trend.

I remember when the GSM providers in Nigeria started offering internet services; they were offering pay as you go, which was very expensive. In the recent times, they have been offering very flexible data plans, data plans as low as N100 for 15mb per day [less that $1]. There are also more mobile phones in circulation that there are desktop and laptops in Africa. The very first screen that many people will use is mobile.

The growth of mobile telephones and internet enabled phones in Africa has also been responsible for the number of users on services like Eskimi, 2go, Mxit and other services that are primarily on mobile. It is easier for these folks to monetise their customers and grow profitably. Unlike Facebook, Google and the like that debuted on the web and only adapting there product to suit mobile phone users.

The mobile social media companies from Africa are doing so well, targeting the unique users in these countries who do not care much about aesthetic. They simply want the ease, affordability and availability of a service that they can use to share and connect, even privately.

If you ask around, especially in Nigeria, you will find that many people who are core smartphone users have never heard or never used services like 2go, Mixit and Eskimi.

MXit has been able to grow its market. It is growing into a large ecosystem. They have API and there are developers that are already leveraging on their platform. There are other companies that are building products and services on the MXit platform.

Recently, Marlon Parker, founder of Reconstructed Living Lab (RLabs) an avid social change and e-democracy campaigner, joined Mxit to head up its social impact vehicle, called Mxit Reach. According to Webaddict a portal in South Africa, Mxit Reach already offers a number of social impact tools. One such programme is a portal, on Mxit, where young adults receive counselling for drug and substance abuse, physical or mental abuse, dept management, depression and general counselling. This platform was built and managed by Marlon and the team at RLabs in the past.

2go is also growing. They currently have more than 12million users in Nigeria and still growing. Information reaching me has it that the product is developed by a small group of guys from South Africa.

Eskimi grew more than 1 million users in one month. The service focused on bringing users who own features phones together to meet, interact, share and date is creating an option for Mobile Money operators to leverage on their huge numbers and growth to drive customer acquisition..

Where Facebook and Google are still crafting the best strategy to move to mobile profitably, the mobile first social networks—2go, Eskimi, Mxit etc—that are popular in Africa keeps growing in number and they seem to have a more define path and revenue generation model.

Will Google or Facebook snap up one of this large mobile social media services or they will be competing together head to head? It will be interesting to see who the winners will be? Who do you think will win?

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