iPhone to Change Africa

Dear Friends.

The first time I heard people saying that the mobile phone would replace the desktop or laptop I was very sceptical. Having used computers for a long time I have become accustomed to typing using a keyboard. Whenever I type SMS on my phone I feel slowed down and slightly cumbersome. I was also under the impression that such a small device like the cellphone could not possibly have the same computing power as my desktop. This notion was embedded in my mind by comparisons between desktops and laptops (or if you prefer notebooks). Laptops always had less memory or processing power than desktops.

However in the age of technology nothing should surprise us. The first computer was the size of a whole room [1800square feet] weighed 50 tons with 18,000 vacuum tubes and had very little processing power compared to todays laptops and may very well have been surpassed by the new smart phones.

The cellphone revolution that has hit Africa is morphing everyday into ever new and user friendly applications for consumers. In the beginning cellphones were primarily used for voice communication. Their portability was a massive revolution for Africans for whom telephones were a luxury. The cellphone gave them freedom to communicate on the move. Now it has progressed far beyond our wildest dreams.

The cellphone has allowed citizens in Kenya to transfer money conveniently and cheaply effectively ending the domination of companies such as Moneygram and Western Union. It has allowed people to listen to radio, play games, download music, wallpapers, send sms, pay bills and now most importantly it has brought the internet. It is this last fact that has the world brimming with excitement.

Enter Apple Inc the creators of the iPod and the revolutionary iPhone. On 19th June 2009 just last week Apple released their latest iPhone 3GS in the USA, Canada and 6 European countries. On June 26 they released in Japan and Australia and it is scheduled to rollout to the rest of the world within the months of July and August. But what really is the iPhone and why all the hype?

The iPhone is defined as an internet connected multimedia smart phone designed and marketed by Apple. What is a smart phone? A smart phone is defined simply as a mobile phone with advanced PC like functionality. Since the launch of the first iPhone in the USA on 29 June 2007 the phone has seen remarkable success. The following table by wikimedia commons illustrates the growth of sales

IPhone sales per quarter

Not only has the phone remarkable success on the sales side but it is now eliciting an increasingly international response. Before it could be said the iPhone was mostly confined to North America and some choice European contries. The original 3G iPhone was initially released in upto 22 countries it has since risen to more than 80 countries world wide. The following wikimedia commons map illustrates the growing numbers of countries covered by the iPhone.

IPhone 3G Availability.

The exciting thing about the iPhone is that it has now become akin to a normal computer with very many PC like functions known in short as Apps [Applications]. Designed primarily for surfing the web and it’s ability to access ones email, process word documents, take pictures, find one’s way using it’s digital compass and google maps functionality, it may be argued that it has superior functionality to a desktop. While traveling on a public system you cant depend on a desktop to find your way around. The Apple apps store now has thousands of applications available both free and for purchase.

A recent study conducted by Opera a software company based in Oslo, among African countries where the technology platform called mobile web is used, Kenya led the group of 12 African countries in number of page views. According to the report the number of internet users on mobile has risen dramatically. The ranking on number of mobile surfers is led by South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Zambia, Tanzania, Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Namibia, Ghana and Gabon in that order. The number of users is offcourse also a factor of population. It is instructive to note that Nigeria with 140 million people is still behind South Africa with 48 million people. Kenya with 38million people is just after Egypt which has 82 million people.

Some interesting figures for Kenya emerged which give some insights into the growth of the mobile internet experience.

  • Page-view growth since April 2008: 572.6%

  • Unique-user growth since April 2008: 146.4%

  • Page-views per user: 372

The most important figure is the last which indicates that with 372 page views per user individual Kenyans are spending alot more time on the web than any other African country. This figure may turn out to be more important than number of users because it could indicate a higher ARPU [Average Revenue Per User] potential for mobile data providers. It also shows that Kenyans have a hunger for the web which may signal even more promise for web related content and revenue streams.

With the recent arrival of fibre-optic cables i.e. TEAMS and SEACOM, the broadband market is likely to see a massive growth. Telkom Kenya and Safaricom have already started preparing for this new market niche that will supplant the voice market niche. With the new smart phones able to view Television, transfer money and transact business this could be the device that delivers broadband for Africa.


Which takes us back to the iPhone. This week 29 June 2009 Google in conjunction with Grameen Foundation and MTN Uganda launched a suite of SMS based mobile phone applications that will greatly enhance real-time information ranging from health related clinical to agricultural based info and virtual market information. What this means is that the cellphone is now being leveraged as a tool to fight poverty and spur development.

If we expand the notion of the iPhone to mean that it is an information phone then the benefits are obvious for Africa. This is why mobile operators are now focussing all their energy into developing smart phones. A fierce competition has now emerged with Nokia, LG and Samsung launching their own versions of smart phones largely similar to the iPhone. It has to be said though that the iPhone is not necessarily a market leader in the smartphone industry but it does set a high standard that can only be good for the future.

In conclusion another technological revolution is taking place. In the development of operating software and applications the concept of crowd sourcing has revolutionized the way software is designed and developed. By allowing open source software development, innovative and amazingly ingenious applications have found their way into the market place which means ordinary devices find themselves transformed into super devices which can handle a wide variety of tasks. This is what has transformed the iPhone into a super phone which has converged an iPod, radio, clock, video camcoder, camera, phone and computer into a single device.

If Africa adopts this new technology and developes it’s own apps for the unique situations facing Africans then it can only be good for Africa. I continue to be inspired by the developments taking place in the field of technology and remain convinced that Africa may free itself from the shackles of poverty within a single generation if the young Africans adopt technology to create wealth. Africa Yes We can.




8 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    John Karanja said,

    Good one JellyFish but my worry is how many Kenyans or indeed Africans can afford an Iphone. Its about $500. Thats a whole years income for most Africans.

    • 2

      jellyfishcoolman said,

      Hi John Karanja.

      First let me officially welcome you to my blog and thank you most sincerely for your steadfast efforts to spur development in Kenya. You are offcourse right that the major impediment to the widespread adoption of the iPhone is price. True the latest models are retailing for approx $500 but like all technology those prices will come down. The original iPhone released in 2007 is already retailing here for under €99. I believe the latest iPhone will also become affordable in due time. If you also look at it as an investment in business (same way as a computer) then you can see it will get some adoption at least in the buss community. I will add your blog to my blogroll so that we can keep in touch. Once again a warm welcome.

  2. 3

    kenyantykoon said,

    this is really nice but you have not said much about the applications. they are so many but vey few of them work in africa. not even in south africa. i hope that changes soon so that we catch up with the amaricans


    • 4

      jellyfishcoolman said,

      Hi Kenyantykoon.

      Welcome back. Yes the applications are indeed very many and I couldn’t possibly describe all of them. I however let the videos explain them for me because they were more effective. Now you point out an important factor about the lack of operability of the apps. I believe this is going to change with the arrival of SEACOM, TEAMS & EASSy. Safaricom has already introduced TV to it’s subscribers and the latest news I am hearing is that Orange [Telkom Kenya] is about to start doing the same.

      It is those apps that make the phone a broadband device. The fibre-optic cables are about to deliver 1.2Tb/s of bandwidth which will be more than enough to ensure all those apps work with blazing speed. Telkom is infact likely to be the Safaricom of broadband becoz with the French company and their concentration on the broadband market they have some key strengths in that niche. It so happens they are the main distributors of iPhones in Kenya. The other mobile carriers Yu & Zain are also positioning themselves to grab a piece of the data market. Telkom has already cut prices drastically to attract subscribers. The future of mobile broadband in Kenya is looking very promising.

  3. 5

    Welcome to the professional tech reviews site.The motive of this site (www.protechreviews.com) is to provide you with the latest happenings prevailing all around the world in the world of technology.I myself have been in this field for more than 15 years and want to make people feel the POWER of technology.

  4. 6

    John Karanja said,

    Hi Jelly Fish will have you on my blogroll once i launch it on the new look.

  5. 7

    Shenelle said,

    Hey everyone. I’m hoping to meet new friends here so drop me a note when you
    get a chance.

    I hope to make some quality posts soon but first I have to look around the forum and
    familiarize myself with everyone and the forum.

    Bye for now. lol


    Biggest Loser of All Time

  6. 8

    Genge said,

    iPhone to change Kenya?! You’re having a laugh! Do you know the percentage of Kenyans who can actually afford to comfortably buy an iPhone? Then now figure out the number of people who can afford to maintain a fully loaded iPhone (locked to a network). It boils down to less than 1%

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