In search of a super app for Africa

As has happened in China, with WeChat or Alipay, as well as in some parts of Asia, a super app for Africa is also sought.

The concept of an application that serves for all or almost everything has become popular in Asia. It started in China, with WeChat and later Alipay, projects of the giants Tencent and Alibaba. But over time it has spread to other countries, such as Singapore, Indonesia, and even India. Now many look towards the continent that has been delayed the most in digitization. There is a belief that a super app for Africa would be a great model to boost its digital services.

However, the market is not yet mature for the African continent. All options are open. And it is that the foreign giants, particularly Amazon or Alibaba, have a sidelong glance in Africa. Jeff Bezos’ company has operations in several countries, as well as the ability to expand its services. Alibaba, who has full experience of how a China super app works with Alipay, plans to land soon.

Although at the moment the race is in more local alternatives. Firstly, it should be noted that a superapp begins by offering a main service, home delivery of food, e-commerce or transport. From there it expands its offer and allows its users to access other amenities. The objective is to offer almost everything, so that the user does not need to change their environment. What you want to do is in the super-app ecosystem.

In Africa there are several applications that are designated with this label, such as Gozem or Cellulant. But there really are two apps that have been very well received by users. Both JumiaPay and OPay dispute the merit – and the profits – of being that longed-for superapp for Africa.

JumiaPay comes from Jumia, the e-commerce company with European roots but operations in 14 African countries. In March 2018, the company launched Jumia One, which grouped different services: it facilitated bill payments, hotel and flight reservations, purchases, sports betting, taxi reservations and food delivery orders. It was later renamed JumiaPay and is one of the company’s great assets, the main engine of which remains its e-commerce platform, which uses the corporate name, Jumia.

Comercio electrónico en África

The second option came up six months later and is called OPay. It also has European roots. The company is nothing more than a fintech startup launched by Opera Software, that of the browser, yes. It is backed by Chinese capital, at least $ 170 million. And it also has services such as electronic commerce, home deliveries, food orders or transportation of people with motorcycles.

Digital formulas for development

The importance of a superapp for Africa also has to do with digital development. As in Spain, what made us buy a smartphone was being able to have WhatsApp (that was the killer app of the moment), on the African continent people are likely to decide to make the effort to buy a smartphone and an Internet connection if with this they obtain great benefits. And these cannot be based on just one service.

On the other hand, the path of Africa in digitalization is skipping steps that are taken in other countries. This also implies a search for original solutions to overcome deficiencies in infrastructure.

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