This has by no stretch of the imagination been an incredible week in the Kenyan Mobile Space. Why? It seems to have grown in leaps and bounds over the past 7 days. Earlier in the week i wrote about how Safaricom needed to focus its own mobile space initiatives around engaging Kenyan Application developers and coming up with a workable revenue model that would enhance the openness of its platform.
Well Safaricom did test run (its down now) its App store but with hundreds if not thousands of Apps presumably from other App markets. This obviously is better than nothing but adds nothing to sentiment that Safaricom is not interested in Kenyan owned mobile solutions …
This sad state of affairs was also exacerbated by reports in mainstream media that M-kesho was allegedly yet another case of stolen ideas.
In my opinion Safaricom’s Walled Garden approach may definately bring huge profits in the short run but for its ecosystem to flourish it needs to adopt more openness (Think Twitter).
I like what i see in Zain…
Earlier in the year i wrote why Bharti is best placed to launch an App store in Kenya largely because of the favourable sentiment emanating from Kenya Techies.
Indeed, rumour has it that Zain is already working with established Kenyan Developers in the mobile space to guide the development of not only Kenya’s App space but the Sub-Saharan region as well.
More importantly Zain is being very proactive, it yesterday announced a partnership with IBM to roll out a $1.5 billion infrastructure to be based in Kenya which would support among many other things a Music(think iTunes) and App store (Thin Ovi).
This is very important because it means they are looking to scale application development in this region. A good backbone infrastructure means less costs in the future and rapid expansion of the ecosystem.
Zain can score if adopts a 70 developer : 30 Zain revenue split. In fact if it really wanted to control the Apprican market space it should open it up for free for say 2 years and let the best apps rise above the others by being voted up. This is what made M-Pesa such a huge success, it was near free for the first 3 years. Now they are making a killing considering it is now 10% of Safaricom’s yearly revenue.
Governance and Opportunity…
IBM president Samuel Palmisano, Bharti chairman Sunil Bharti , Bharti International CEO Manoj Kohli met with President Kibaki signaling a future Public/Private partnership that will not only open up Government through E-Government but also suggest that huge investments are on the way to the country. Presidents of Fortune 500’s don’t just drop by. President Kibaki notably was quick to acknowledge the presence of a lot of talent in the country (Read More).
The arrival of a more open government would mean more access to data. More access to Government data means more access to social problems. More access to problems means more access to needs. More access to needs means more access to opportunity and solutions. For example back in 2003 Mpesa addressed the problem of having a large percentage of unbanked citizens who could not save and therefore could not invest. Kudos to safaricom for that.
The next range of mobile solutions will solve the problems of health, agriculture, voting and leisure. They are already here! Read about my idea how iphone 4g or equivalent phone could save lives if used by health sector.
Apps like Mkulima, iKatiba(our very own) are the forerunners of what is a fast expanding African ecosystem. This why you see the emergence of Kenyan owned mobile App stores like MobiSoko (by Juliana Rotich of the Ushahidi fame) and M-Labs led by Ken Mwenda.
To cap the crazy week, Nokia have just awarded Ken Waibochi (A.K.A. Murags) and Virtual city a venture fund of 1 million dollars for his B2B problem solver application that has already been deployed at East Africa Breweries Limited.
Nokia has also been funding and training other developers (including us) with impressive results. In this regard Nokia and Kenya’s Telkom companies are more certainly set to do battle for hearts and minds of Kenyan Techies.
So now we say “Ndovu wawili wakipigana, Poacher hucheka hadi Benki “.