Often, it is quite interesting whenever you get to find out that there is a story to a particular solution. Especially when I hear that the inspiration behind an idea which has grown into a resounding solution, came out of a journey; my ear stands at alert willing to hear how it all began. Keeping in tune with the core concept of this series –apps developed in Africa – we continue to highlight applications serving solutions to relevant problems around us. Our app of the week is Mobiashara.
Mobiashara was created as an e-commerce marketplace which would enable brands and customers to conveniently and efficiently transact through text messages—with no internet access required. The name Mobiashara is derived from a coinage which combines English and Swahili – literally translated as “Mo’ Businesses”. The goal is to have a platform which provides an affordable, easy-to-use mobile commerce service for Africans.
Peculiar Problem It Solves
Here in Africa, it is not uncommon to experience hassles in the process of procuring basic amenities and services which should naturally be carried out almost effortlessly. On the other hand, businesses in many parts of Africa have a hard time reaching their consumers because of the lack of infrastructure. Mobiashara bridges this gap. Developed as a solution that connects brands and customers via mobile phones; enabling transactions through an exchange of messages.
Essence / Unique Feature
Mobiashara offers a mobile technology that allows consumers to search, confirm, and purchase a given retailer’s good or service using text messages. It empowers consumers while eliminating the need for face-to-face contact and all the problems it entails. The service also crosses socio-economic lines; ensuring that the rich as well as the poor have the much needed access to a procurement platform which just solves the problem adequately.
It was developed by Slim Trader- a company founded by a Nigerian, Femi Akinde in 2009 – as a platform which allows consumers to purchase services or shop for goods with their mobile devices. It all began with the founder experiencing the problem first hand in trying to book a flight, from Nigeria to Ghana. The lengthy hassles he went through served as an eye-opener. Then he thought: if this kind of problem existed for purchasing high-cost items, it must be almost worse to purchase everyday goods and services.
With a lot more people involved in similar struggles on different levels – mostly to procure services (whether basic or advanced) and to make payments; what began as an eye-opening experience has evolved into a paradigm-shifting mobile platform. Mobiashara enables companies and organizations to offer consumers the ability to discover, preview, and purchase goods and services from their mobile phones. Eliminating the issues that come with internet access availability before successful transactions can be carried out, Mobiashara can facilitate a back and forth transaction successfully in a matter of three text messages.
Uniquely, the platform has grown based on customer and partner demand which explains its presence in six countries (Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.) already within a few months of launch. But with the essential offerings provided by the application, it has a potential to extend to all 53 countries comprising Africa, and other developing nations around the world.
Worst case scenario, it could serve as a viable alternative to applications which require internet access in the event of a service disruption or even non-availability, even in the more developed countries. This would mean it has the potential to expand across the globe, albeit on different scales.
As focused as the platform seems to be on the use of text messages only, I feel it should also create the option of an application which could leverage on internet access, in the event that it is available. This creates flexible options for the user, especially if one of the channels experiences a disruption.
It would also be able to equally leverage the different Smartphone platforms available, in keeping up with the key trends on mobile, so that it doesn’t get left behind while attending to only one part of the market.
Applications like this eventually take on a life of their own, as they offer different ranges of consumers with the option of adaptation, to fit individual or corporate needs as they see fit, or as the situation demands. Billing with the use of channels like mobile money, and other existing payment options already available through local mobile carriers, the potential for adoption is really enormous. The application could also benefit strongly from partnering with local businesses on ground throughout Africa. These people know the terrain, and can supply huge and helpful angles with the provision of relevant knowledge perspectives.
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