I’m in Nairobi right now; things are especially exciting at the moment. The Central Business District is chaos ahead of the promulgation of the new constitution on Friday (probably already happened by the time I post this), but there’s a whole bunch of really, REALLY exciting things happening:
- The big mobile price war. Last week, Zain (now owned by Bharti Airtel), cut their airtime and SMS tariffs to 25% of the previous, causing the other operators to immediately follow suit. In a country where people spend 50% of their disposable income on their phones, this is a huge deal, and will spark another round of mobile phone innovation and usage. The main point here is that lowering the cost of using technology, lowers the cost of failure; as Clay Shirky says, in turn this lowers the risk of innovation. I believe this will have a big impact on my business, Mocality.com, by making it easier for EVERYONE to use us. Compare these two photos of adverts for Orange’s tariff, taken on the same day;
The pricing is changing so fast, that they can’t even take down the old billboards quick enough!
- (blowing own trumpet) Mocality hit a big milestone this week – we signed up our 60,000th Nairobi business, making us easily the largest business directory in Africa. Most of our businesses have no web presence other than our listing – I’m very proud to have given so many businesses their first outpost on the internet, and thank everyone involved, especially our hardworking Ambassadors and our network of crowdsourcing Agents. We’re re-launching our website on the 30th August, now actively open for business.
- Maker Faire Africa is taking place on the 27th and 28th August, here in Nairobi – it’ll be an explosion of local tech innovation.
I namechecked a bunch of internet businesses/projects in Africa that I think are leading the way (although this is nothing like a complete list). Since TV is such a crappy medium for delivering URLs, I’ll list them here:
- Kalahari Kenya (disclaimer – sister company to Mocality)
- The iHub (like the techhub that Paul mentioned, but better) (sorry, Mike :) )
- village telco
- jobberman – in the interview, some weird mental buffer overflow made me say that they’re in India. They’re in Nigeria. Apologies.
There’s a great tech scene in South Africa, but I have to say, that I think Kenya eclipses it. Mocality’s country manager, Josh Mwaniki and I spent Wednesday giving our SA Head of Customer Service a crash course in Nairobi – Ray was pretty astonished at the variety and density of technology retail (phones, PCs, everything) across the city. Mobile tech (retail, M-Pesa, airtime sales) powers commerce in Nairobi like no where else.
Right, more later, I’m off to the Maker Faire party now.