mobile-in-africa-developing-economies Why think Mobile when Marketing to Developing Economies?By Vincent Matinde

The mobile growth rate in Africa surpasses any region globally, so it’s no surprise that Africa has become known as the mobile-only continent. This represents numerous opportunities for marketers to take advantage of this unique aspect to the continent.

icon-app-development-1 Why think Mobile when Marketing to Developing Economies?

Mobile phones in Africa are largely feature phones, although smartphone are becoming more and more affordable. So how can marketers get advantage of this? Below are some tips to help kick start fresh ideas.

What is a feature phone?

A feature phone, also known as a smartphone-lite, is a mid-range mobile that has more function that a basic phone only capable of voice calls and SMS, but without the expense of a smartphone.

1. Feature phone applications

According to app creator Binu, Africa will have 900 million feature phones by 2017. This is a huge number, considering that the rest of the world would have outgrown the feature phone by this time.

Marketers need to ensure that their marketing products can be embedded on feature phones and are easy to load. For example, Binu, has now integrated World Reader into their portfolio of apps and thousands of Africans can now access novels and other reading materials from the platform.

worldreader Why think Mobile when Marketing to Developing Economies?

This application does not download any material to the device, due the fact that feature phones rarely have the storage capabilities of smartphones. Facebook hasn’t started posting ads readable by feature phones, but pages can take the advantage of this knowing that more Africans access their social media feeds through the phones.

2.     SMS and USSD

The use of SMS and USSD is a powerful tool when marketing to Africa’s mobile platform. ForgetMeNot Africa is one of the companies deploying USSD services to telecom operators all over the continent.

The service has also helped users of the Orange network in Kenya to enjoy social media tools using dataless phones. Users can chat through the service and send emails and such services are a gaining momentum in the country.

In Kenya, music sales are largely aided by USSD services or text messages. Mobile content companies use premium SMS services to sell music, advice, wallpapers, jokes and much more additional mobile content.

Kenyan banks, such as Kenya Commercial Bank, have integrated the USSD service with their mobile banking. Now, users can easily access their account, transfer money and withdraw money using the service. The reason why SMS and USSD are so popular is because they are easy to use, this is especially true for people living in rural areas.

3.     Mobile content

There is a huge, largely unexploited, market for mobile content in Africa and most developing countries. Most games and content are foreign and often don’t work well in developing economies such as Africa, as no emphasis is placed on local culture.

Marketers can take full advantage of this vacuum to create interesting mobile content while pushing for brand awareness. With many phones embracing the 3G internet network, the possibilities are further broadened. Internet applications can offer a platform for customer interactions.

Hosting adverts in various mobile applications is a unique way to gain potential customers’ attention. Companies such as InMobi and Twinpine Network are servicing brands that want to reach out to African consumers through mobile web. Twinpine recorded 500 million monthly impressions by August 2012.

Any marketer or app developer that can take advantage of this glaringly open marketplace will be in a good position to develop strong and lasting business from the African continent.

Vincent Matinde is a pan African technology news journalist. He is enthusiastic about technology and innovation throughout the continent.