Super apps have long been associated with India, China and Indonesia, but they are fast emerging across the African continent. The trend, made popular by the Chinese internet behemoths Tencent with WeChat and Alibaba with Alipay was successfully replicated in India by Paytm and in Indonesia by Gojek and Grab.
The super app model in Africa is now catching up with great speed. There are mobility-driven super apps. These typically start by providing transportation or logistic services before incorporating others to take advantage of the ecosystem.
The super app deluge in Africa
Safeboda, which operates in Uganda and Nigeria has been one of the few known names in this segment. Safeboda started off as a ride-hailing company but has since incorporated e-commerce and financial services in its app. Similar apps include Halan in Egypt, Gozem in Togo and Gokada in Nigeria.
Other super apps that are emerging across the continent are largely fintechs before they become super apps. The best example is the Jumia Pay app, an all-in-one lifestyle app from Jumia. A user can recharge their wallet and use the app to pay bills, make hotel reservations, book a ride, pay for food etc.
Kenyan fintech giant, Cellulant has its super app dubbed Tinng, an all-in-one payment platform with 170 payment options, local and international merchants. It boasts a base of 220 million consumers across 34 countries.
Telecom companies are also developing super apps have joined the race too. MTN has Ayoba which has free instant messaging, voice and video calling, games, news and other content. In June 2021, Safaricom introduced its own M-Pesa Super App with offline mode. Users can pay for train and bus tickets, event tickets, shopping gift vouchers, insurance services and gas delivery alongside its money transfer services.
South African telecom giant, Vodacom, also launched its super app in June. The VodaPay app, backed by AliPay is an all-encompassing mobile payments solution that was customized to meet the lifestyle and payment needs of consumers, businesses and technology developers to drive financial inclusion and economic growth.
There are also super apps powered by China including PalmPay and OPay. Other startups have emerged labelling themselves as a “super app of” in various countries. EdenLife in Nigeria calls itself the super app of domestic services, Healthlane in Cameroon is the super app of access to healthcare and Djamo in Ivory Coast is a financial super app.
What is fueling the rise of these super apps across the continent?
According to the Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker of Q1 2021, the African market is dominated by low-end smartphones that are characterized by limited storage and capacity. The ultra low-end price band (less than USD 100) accounted for 42 percent of all smartphone purchases in that period. The low-end price band smartphones (USD 100-200) accounted for 43 percent. Together, they accounted for 85 percent.
Because of this, smartphone owners limit the number of apps that they download. So it is better to bundle multiple services into one app, rather than have different apps for each service. This makes the choice of which apps to delete or download easier.
Data costs are still relatively high in Africa. According to Cable UK’s Worldwide Data Pricing Report, sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the most expensive mobile data. 6 of the 10 countries with the most expensive data are in Africa with 1GB costing as much as USD 49.67 in Equatorial Guinea. Data is still a luxury and users can not afford to download and use multiple apps.
Furthermore, Africa still faces unstable and poor internet connection which makes the expansion of startups from one country to another rather difficult. Startup founders would rather diversify their services to increase revenue rather than open up shop in another country.
The startup ecosystem in almost all African countries is still in its early stages. The startups that have been able to raise money, must have seen the success of Tencent, AliPay, Paytm, Gojek and Grab and decided to use the same playbook due to the fact that the markets they operate in have similar characteristics.
And in most sectors in Africa, it is a clean playing field.