E-Book: App Design help for design-averse developers from Afriapps

Cover Afriapps developer Andrew Mugoya is back at it again with a new book offering some designing help to app developers. Titled  “Help! I am a developer with no clue about design”, the book aims to help developers integrate minimal design elements to make their apps acceptable not only to the Afriapps app store but also potentially the Android Market. Mugoya draws from his experience running Afriapps and having to reject badly design apps to offer tips that will ” will not turn developers into killer designers, but they will hopefully ensure users are not turned away from apps/sites due to woeful designs”. In combination with my previous post about website design tips for the African market, it’s a general consensus that in African software development, design if very often given the last place whereas it is a crucial element in making a product successful when well exploited. I would definitely encourage developers to read and learn from both sources in order to better their product and make them more competitive.

You can download the book here.


Website design rules for the African market

Will Mutua at Afrinnovator writes an interesting article on how to design websites for the African market and supports it with some facts on the ground. Looking at the examples of the most successful websites in Kenya and Nigeria, Will comes down with the following nuggets when it comes to designing for the African market:

  • First to market:
    Bottom line: If you are offering a great service, and customers catch on and engage with your service, it is unlikely that they’ll jump ship when someone else comes by who’s offering exactly what you are offering with a better looking skin on it.
  • User Experience Design trumps Graphic Design:
    You may not want to hold up the product because of the graphic design side of things but user experience is everything. If you’re going to spend time on design, spend as much of it as you can on getting aspects of user experience and user interaction just right.
  • Mobile Web Rules in Africa Design Specifically for it:
    […]It would be wise to invest in creating a custom site for mobile, or making your website mobile friendly. As far as web design for mobile goes, the cardinal principle is to minimize. Minimize on the number of graphics you have, minimize on the number of actions a user needs to do or number of pages it takes to accomplish a task.

Great advice very in tune with my own experience so far. Read the whole article here and you should also be a frequent reader of the Afrinnovator website.


E-Book: African Apps in The Global Marketplace

African Apps Book

I ran into this e-book totally by mistake, but nothing happens by coincidence in my book so here you go. It’s an e-book by Andrew Mugoya and you can download it from here on the AfriApps marketplace, which if you didn’t know offers great apps written African Developers.

Here is a synopsis of the book by the author himself:


African technology is in an exciting and vibrant phase with many talented developers and an unprecedented access to global markets.

However, this is not a situation unique to Africa. App development has exploded all across the world. What this means for African developers and entrepreneurs is that they are not only competing for the same global market but also facing stiffer competition for their local markets.

To be able to compete in this new world – to be able to survive – African developers and entrepreneurs will need to understand and adapt to this reality.

‘African Apps in a Global Marketplace’ is a useful read for African app developers or anyone interested in the state of the African app industry. It presents the reader with the points to consider in taking their app from a simple and fun idea into a product that can be successful globally. From conceptualisation to design, funding and marketing. Most importantly, it informs on how African apps can stand out in the crowded global marketplace.

I will definitely give it a read myself and will post a review as soon as done. Congratulations and thanks to the author, the literature is definitely needed on the African development market.

Visit the Afriapps website.

Mobile: Comparative View Between Kenya and South Africa.

Comparison between Kenya and South Africa. Image by @mariskaza
Comparison between Kenya and South Africa. Image by @mariskaza

I’d like to direct you to this article by Mariska Du Preez titled “Mobile Technology: a comparative view between Kenya and South Africa“. Some hard numbers are given from research on the mobile market in both coutries, as well the state of the developer communities. With populations roughly equal (42 M Kenyans to 50M South Africans) mobile penetration is way ahead in SA (84 % to 56%), and what’s interesting was the labor force statisticsw which reveals that for all the advances and investment made in ICTs Kenya is still primarily an agriculture driven economy with a labour force composed of 75% of agricultural workers compared to 25 % of mixed Industry and Services. This highly contrasts with South Africa where only 9% of the labour force comes from agriculture while Industry by itself brings 26% of the force and services a whopping 65%. Interestingly both countries have about the same ratio of internet users (4.2M to  6.8M) and data is substantially cheaper in Kenya while smartphone penetration is still weak.

Du Preez makes some interesting parallels about the developer communities in both countries, for example:

  • Lots of young Kenyan obtain their degrees overseas and bring those skills back home
  • South Africans on the contrary obtain their degrees locally then go overseas to gain international experience
  • Kenyan developers are very “local solutions/socially” oriented while South Africans are more commercially and internationally driven. Erik Hersman founder of iHub in Nairobi dubs a globalized/regionalized focus amd gives Kenya an edge in mobile, not web innovation.
  • Kenya smartphone penetration is very weak, so most developers develop for feature phones. Telling statistics, Mocality, a business listing app with 67000 member accounts about 2% of combined Apple RIM and Android usage (150 000 member businesses and 21% Android traffic as of November 2011 thanks to a clarification from Stefan Magdalinski).

A very interesting read indeed with good insight. Click here to read the full article.

Mariska also provided some good links on getting Internet stats for Africa

For African Internet Stats

For Mobile and Social Media Stats

Update 12-13-2011: As Stefan Magdalinski remarked out in the comments, take the stats with a grain of salt as they date from 18 months ago as of December 2011 and Kenya is a rapidly changing market. He also pointed out that Mocality now has 150000 member businesses and sees 21% traffic from Android devices as of November 2011

African Mobile Tablets: A Reality

VMK TabletI ran into this recent article  from the sharp African Tech Evangelist Robert Alai discussing the topic of African tablets with Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe, an inventor who holds a patent on a microchip used in minimally invasive surgical robots. I’ve first heard about African tablets earlier this year around June from this Engadget article about the Way C, dubbed the First African Tablet (which as with any “First” proclamation is subject to challenge), which pleasantly surprised me as I wasn’t aware of any such initiative being started on the continent. That was the work of Verone Mankou, a 25 year old Congolese entrepreneur and the news soon made the rounds on Twitter, with good coverage in local newspapers and French media.

What was even surprising to me was the mini controversy that soon followed as some critics questioned the “African” epithet in African Tablet due to the fact that even though the tablet was designed by an African, it was manufactured in China. I did not see the point of such an argument, iPhones are manufactured in China, yet they are not called Chinese phones. I guess the point of that argument could be more targeted at the fact that no new component was created by an African and the tablet is just assembled from existing components but that point is still moot with me. I am more encouraged by the fact that a tablet is being brought to market by an African, for the African market, than in how it is made. This is a starting point and it is needed. The Chinese started with R&D, Repatriated and Duplicate, and knowing how to reverse engineer can be a good starting point to innovation.

So when I read Robert’s article, I learned two new things: first that I was not the only one feeling that way, and second that there were other African tablets being released (Kaboo by a Kenyan, and Encipher/INYE by a Nigerian, Nigeria has also the Ovim tablet). Robert writes that:

Some of the claims from the pundits and journalists were that the Kenyan, Nigerian or Congolese could not have launched or managed to design a tablet so soon without 2 or so years of R&D. Most of these arguments were lame and just brought out the stupidity of the bloggers, pundits and journos. They forgot that many Africans have created far greater ideas without having to go the formal way of innovation.

Harsh terms but it illustrates the irritation that these arguments did indeed evoke in me. In the video accompanying the article, Robert discusses that issue with Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe, dubbed by Robert as “one of the great young African minds out there”, and Professor Ndubuisi agrees:

He wondered why Africans should be forced to produce new processors, screens and other parts of a tablets while others have already done so. Ndubuisi is of the opinion that to create some of these ideas you just need to know how to assemble a product, make it look African and solve African problems. Africans need not reinvent the wheel.

In my computer science curriculum, this was one of the mantras that was stressed and oft repeated: “Do  not re-invent the wheel” so creating a tablet from existing components totally makes sense to me. I hope these initiatives do indeed capture the market and grow because tablets can be used in Africa for example at the education level, and this is one of the goals of Project Elimu, an open source SaaS School Administration & Management initiative by Coders4Africa, the non profit I work with. Having tablets mass adopted and incorporated in the African public psyche the way mobile phones are is key in ensuring that we can create solutions that make sense in our context.

Mobile App Highlight: Dropifi from Ghana

From VC4Africa, the winners of the recent Startup Weekend in Accra with their app Dropifi (not be confused with this Dropify, or this one for that matter):

“Dropifi is a messaging platform that seeks to bridge the relationship gap between visitors to a website and the business owners. Many websites, if not all, have a means of reaching-out to them, most have “contact us” forms and some provide address and location. The contact forms, when filled our correctly, are usually routed to the mail clients of the business owners. Traditional email clients are not designed to extract intelligence from the messages received.

Mail plug-ins such as Rapportive give more information about the contact, other tools like Olark and GetSatisfaction engage the visitors to provide them answers they might be looking for. However, most of these tools have too many features for small businesses. The complex user interface design hides essential features from enterprise users. Dropifi seeks to provide the essential features for (both) small and large-scale companies to build relationships with their site visitors.”

Good stuff!

Full article here