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August 28, 2010

I just did an interview with Paul Carr (formerly of the internet), and @sarahcuda on techcrunchtv, about the Kenyan/African tech scene.

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:

  1. 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:

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.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 30, 2010 10:38 am

    We should point out that perhaps the major choker of innovation right now is high bandwidth prices which need to be looked at. The first mover on this front will reap a lot of benefits as right now operators are fleecing internet users like crazy.

    There is a lot of opportunity in the last mile space that none of these buffoons seem to be able to figure out but thats only because they believe in a supermarket concept of doing everything themselves so they can be a one stop shop instead of cost-sharing.

    Lastly, the budding local content generation is going to explode at some point. We already have a hugely popular blog, Media Madness http://www.frankiesrants.com that is only a few months old.

    More local content will draw users toward the new online retail space where marketers must inevitably follow.

  2. David Kiania permalink
    August 30, 2010 2:27 pm

    Very interesting interview you did on Tech crunch, though the comment on NASSCAR and Christians was abit off. I am born and breed in Kenya, working for a European GSM vendor in the thick of the mobile transformation.

    Kenya is indeed driving a lot of mobile innovation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ivz2foChQYU Check this link out by Nathan Eagle (CEO TXTEAGLE) and MIT Grad.

    Sarah you are most welcome and when you hit town schedule to meet with the skunkworks tech community, this group is made up of all people tech and are driving innovation in both mobile and general tech in general. I would also implore that you don’t just go to the urban centers but go to the villages and see how ordinary peoples lives have been transformed by GSM.

    I’ll be glad to help if you need me to.

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  1. Kenya: A Land of Endless Mobile Possibility (TCTV) | TechCrunch

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