So I did a keynote address to Mobile West Africa 2014 in Lagos Nigeria two weeks ago and found myself learning so much, I have to do a conference summary of what is happening in Africa's largest economy.
SOME CONTEXT ON AFRICA'S LARGEST ECONOMY
And first just a few tidbits about Nigeria and mobile. Nigeria is the world's 7th most populous nation with 173 million inhabitants. Behind Brazil and Pakistan, ahead of Russia and Japan. A little more than half the population of the USA or about twice the population of Germany, so we have context. Nigeria has 120 million mobile subscribers for 69% mobile penetration rate per capita (according to latest stats by Ericsson) and Nigerian smartphone population is 27 million (Ericsson) so about 23% of Nigerians who have a mobile account, are using a smartphone. Thus 77% of Nigerian mobile subscribers still use a 'dumbphone' or featurephone. Or if targeting featurephone technical abilities (SMS, voice, USSD, MMS, WAP) you reach more than 4 times larger audience than doing all smartphone platforms - combined (which in Africa includes large portion of Symbian still).
About 80% of Nigerian handsets are on 2G (source: Etisalat) and thus only 20% on 3G or faster, again the very basic services such as SMS, voice, WAP, USSD are part of the normal serices mix in the Nigerian (and other African) market(s). About 8.5% of the total GDP of Nigeria comes from the telecoms sector and before you say 'fixed' - landline fixed connections are less than 1% of total Nigerian telecoms. So yes, well over 8% of the total Nigerian economy is driven by mobile. To put that into a world context, the worldwide average is 2%. Yes, Nigeria has a very vibrant, healthy, rapidly-growing mobile industry sector and it was a privilege to get to speak to, and to meet so many thought-leaders from the industry. Now lets take some of my lessons that I learned, in somewhat chronological order...
TEENS AND MOBILE
Nigerian youth magazine Teen Y had its editor, Yemi Obamedo speak to the conference and tell us about the youth in Nigeria. She started with a funny cartoon with joke about dating, which went something like this: "I broke up with my boyfriend. How does he feel about it? He doesn't know yet, Twitter is down." haha... Yeah. Connected and digitally savvy, of course. So what did we learn? Yemi told us that teens are not addicted to technology, they are addicted to each other. Technology is just an avenue to connect with friends. Then she told about media interests - teens don't read newspapers. Online platforms have replaced traditional papers. Teens love to be heard, to be seen, to be treated as exclusive, to be seen as important. Teens often set trends. And then the killer obsevation: its not a curse that teens today have a short attention span - you can capture a teen's interest in one minute, via a video or a single picture for example. Yes, don't think of it as a negative, teens have a short attention span and thats a good thing for marketers... (I have to think about that.. )
KNORR SOUP AIRTIME
So then we had a good case study of a marketing campaign. Knorr soups in South Africa offer unique codes in their bags of soup that are used in an SMS based survey. The consumer answers a few questions and gets .. AIRTIME in return! Plus of course Knorr cooking recipes. 3.8 million South Africans engaged with the campaign which is mroe than one third of South African households! 95% of those who participated, opted in for more communciations from Knorr and was it useful? Knorr sales up 6%. (I would comment that Africa has been experimenting a lot with the rewards of airtime and its always a killer bonus for consumers, when over 90% are on prepaid accounts)
And we had lots of examples from across the Emerging World. Gustav Praekelt told of mobile used in several important elections recently and his best example came from India. A service by Myneta offered candidate information in SMS sized summary, across a wide range of languages. So has that candidate been convicted of any crimes, what is their wealth/tax status, things like that. Important, impartial candidate information about the world's largest democratic election where the traditional newspaper or newsmedia cannot serve the modern needs where often the voter can't even afford to buy a cup of coffee. But they have a mobile phone! They had 5 million searches of candidate info in this year's election in 2014.
A lot of speakers talked about the need to focus on the featurephone/dumbphone users, that smartphone apps were not (yet) the way for Africa and that even SMS didn't reach everyone because of still significant levels of illiteracy, especially among poorer, rural, older women. So even very basic voice services had big potential and were already used widely by service providers. We had a lot of examples of SMS based services and one I particularly liked was the SMS access to Wikipedia. Praekelt showed us how the wikipedia information (which is mostly text) is displayed in pages of SMS content. To see the illustration on a basic featurephone, see this link of the screen shot taken by Martin Pasquier
There was a lot of discussion about citizen journalism and related citizen democracy activities using social media etc. My friend Toby Shapshank gave a great definition of what is Citizen Journalism. Its "being in the wrong place in the right time with a cameraphone". Toby echoed what many others said at MWA2014 - yes, SMS remains the most profound means of communication.
But yes, the world still has 900 million illiterate people. 13% of the planet. 770 million are adults, 130 million are youth illiterates. Roughly two thirds of the illiteracy is among women (both in adults and youth) according to latest UN data. And where are illiteracy rates highest? In Western Africa. So what do we do about that? One of the ways to deal with illiteracy and mobile services is voice based services but then we find also an interesting phenomna. Some people don't know numbers! So if we deploy an IVR system (press 1 to talk in English...) - people don't know numbers! They don't know which button to press if it says, press 4. Can you imagine how difficult this makes things. And there are lots of attempts by various groups to teach basic digital literacy to Africans, such as numbers.
So for example Leah Farmer of Voto told about their voice-based voter services they deployed in Ghana. And it worked well but there were definitely lots of people who didn't know how to operate an IVR system on their phones, so Voto helped volunteers go teach the users, usually in smaller villages, on how to use the system and how to navigate IVR.
Leah also gave an interesting comment: SMS doesn't reach everyone in Ghana (yet). Yes even SMS is not the way to reach everyone - ie understand, it will be, but is not yet. So SMS is 'too advanced' a technology where illiteracy is still a major issue. Isn't that a refreshing point of view? There are parts of the planet where SMS is a technology of the future. Leah said that SMS only reached the youth and populations in the cities but in rural and elderly mobile users, SMS won't reach them (yet). So yeah. Augmented Reality and QR codes and smartphone apps haha.. are gosh, probably a decade still away, if SMS is too advanced for those users...
So while that was a lot about other countries, did we hear anything about Nigerian services? Sure. One of my fave services now that I've shown around the world is the Nigerian constitution that was done on mobile. Its available on smartphones and dumbphones. Zubai Abubakar is co-CEO of Pledge51, the company that created the Nigerian Constitution service, gave us updated numbers - so the constitution has now been downloaded 1.3 million times. Zubai told the conference that for example they have had people in court, pull out their phone, and read from the constitution about their rights, to the judge. Imagine how much this empowers the population and brings true democracy and rule of law to the people. (I took a picture of Zubai that I now feature with that slide, with the updated stats... fabulous meeting people of services I have talked about in the past).
BBC SURVEY OF AFFLUENT MOBILE USERS
Then we had a very interesting international survey by the BBC. They had targeted the affluent mobile users, and had a survey across several continents and including the rich world and the Emerging World. The survey covered 6,000 respondents in 6 countries (Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Sweden, USA). So for affluent mobile owners:
39% of affluent mobile owners access the internet hourly
36% of affluent mobile user report that mobile is the primary device to organize their work
30% of affluent mobile owners prefer mobile to the desktop for accessing news content
Interesting stuff. Also Isla MacLeod of the BBC reported that 35% of BBC International News page-views are generated in Africa. (remember BBC UK is excluded, as they are served by BBC domestic services so this is excluding UK, the rest of the world - but remember, the USA is very actively using BBC as a news source, yet 35% of all BBC International news pageviews come from Africa - where they don't have many options and BBC is of course - mobile-first - has been from long ago)
ESKIMI FAN CLUBS
Then we had an interesting presentation by Vytas Paukstys of Eskimi. Eskimi is a social network for mobile with 16 million users worldwide but they focus on enabling fan clubs to be generated by users. The have already 100,000 fan clubs. And yes fan clubs of anything. These in turn should be - and are gradually being - used by brands then to engage with their fans. Eskimi runs on all major smartphone platforms including Blackberry but also Asha Nokia and Java and HTML. They find that users who join fan clubs (generated by other fans) then are very eager to recommend them - 76% of fan club users on Eskimi have already recommended a fan club to a friend. This makes it very viral.
And then we heard from Solo, one of Nigeria's domestic phone makers. Tato Ogundipe the CEO of Solo spoke about the rise of the national brands to challenge the global brands. Solo is already the second bestselling Nigerian domestic phone brand with a compelling offering and they come with a clever bundle - they have a library of 20 million songs including full catalogs of most major international record labels plus essentially all Nigerian artists - all of course licensed and paid for But a clever gimmick, as a Nigerian, you get lifetime license to almost every song you've ever heard, 'for free' as part of the phone purchase. Solo also offers hotspot points where Solo users can download data to the phone for free - thus bypassing the costly data plans and airtime.
MALARIA DESTROYER GAME
And then something with a surprising Finnish connection. Nkemdilim Begho of Future Software showcased an award-winning youth game called Malaria Destroyer Game (MDG). It was partly funded by Tampere University from Finland! (cool! - kiitos-kiitos ja terveisia sinne Manseen ja kaikille MoMolaisille!).
There was very much more but I think these are the highlights. Let me add one more that didn't come from the conference but is timed at the same time. This I got via Twitter. But there is a cool marketing campaign by the company that invented mobile money
COCA COLA AIRTIME IN DUBAI
So this was not at the conference but a truly clever campaigin in Dubai by Coca Cola yes the company that invented mobile payments - the world's first vending machines that could be paid for by SMS payment were installed in Finland - by Coca Cola. Now in Dubai, Coke has helped migrant Pakistani workers to call home and talk to their families. For every Coca Cola bottle plastic top, they get 2 minutes of airtime. The calls only work on dedicated Coca Cola phonebooths that are placed near Coca Cola vending machines. But yes, you drink two bottle of Coke and you get 4 minutes to talk to your wife and kids back home in Pakistan. Imagine working for a year's contract away from family, that will be a very valuable beneift. And as Coca Cola installed these Coke-red phone booths, they've also of course arranged very low cost VOIP connections to Pakistan so that Coca Cola can afford to offer 2 minutes of calling time per bottle sold of the fizzy drinks. Wonderful innovation by Coca Cola!
Ok thats my recap of MWA2014. Amazing stuff from Africa and the Emerging World. Thats where mobile is happening! They know their market, they know their consumers, they know what works and what doesn't. They don't need to be convinced of what will happen some day. And for those who want to see a summary of my keynote, here is a nice video by Tech City about my keynote including audience reaction interviews:
Thanks to Matthew Dawes and everyone at All Amber for creating a fabulous event. Also was great to meet in person my two Nigeria gurus that I had been following on TW and quoting from very often: my dear virtual friend @JesseOGuns of 360nobs and most def the coolest dude in mobile in the world: Mister Mo ie @Mister_Mobility (aka Yomi Adegboye who simply calls himself a Ladies' Man - how cool is that?)
Had a wonderful time and am greatly looking forward to getting to visit Nigeria's vibrant mobile market soon again!