Sometime back, I had a conversation with Kirui, who is the lead of Consulting at iHub and therefore my boss, as he was writing a post reviewing Kenyan apps; you can read the posts here and here. In this conversation he lamented the dearth of Kenyan mobile apps. In addition to that he noted that the quality had not been fantastic as apps were not improved upon.
I posited to him, and do so here, that this may be because we as techies in the Kenyan ecosystem have for the longest time made fun of the mobile app craze we had mostly in the years 2010 to 2012. In fact there’s even a name for them, m-vitus (vitus is Kiswahili for things), making fun of the fact that a lot of the mobile apps at the time were named in the mpesa style and prioritized mobile (mPrep and mCollector are a couple of examples taken from past Pivot Easts). As a result, it seems to have become unpopular to build mobile apps, particularly consumer facing ones.
Another thing that might have contributed to the lack of Kenyan made apps is the fact that when they were going through their boom phase, the mobile market here was practically non-existent. In 2011 there were just over 100,000 smartphones in the country but last year, in 2015, more than half of the phones sold were smart phones-that’s 1.8 million phone fyi- and there are about 6 million smartphones currently in use. This number is expected to increase as smartphones become even cheaper and their usefulness undeniable. The market is now clearly big enough for apps to figure out a business model.
I don’t really have data to back this up, funny considering I’m a data guy, but it’s just a strong hunch. I think it’s time we as techies begin to encourage people to build mobile apps again. I would like to have more than banking apps on my phone. Of course I could be all wrong about this and I’m just not looking hard enough. Sound out in the comments below and on Twitter with some Kenyan apps you use. Would love to try them out. Peace!!!