Mobile Phones

Mobile Phones

Mobile Phones | | Creating Buzz via Mobile Phones | | Distribution on mobile platforms: Strategies for Africa Investigates | Caveats to this strategy

“In ten short years, what was once an object of luxury and privilege, the mobile phone, has become a basic necessity in Africa.”President Paul Kagame of Rwanda

Mobile phones are an incredibly important new tool in Africa. Whether to create buzz or to distribute content, mobile phones can certainly be useful to Insight News TV in launching Africa Investigates on the continent.

As an example, in Uganda, mobile network coverage is over 90% and 1 out of 3 people owns a mobile phone[1] . The following video illustrates well the mobile phone "boom" that has occurred and that continues to grow in Africa:

Creating Buzz via Mobile Phones

Strategies for Africa Investigates
Mobile phones, alone or in conjunction with other media forms, can be used to promote Africa Investigates in several ways:

  • Advertising via text messages: A consumer market research study by Comscore found that nearly 70% of Africans are comfortable with mobile advertising - the highest percentage in the world[2] . In addition, the study found that 45% of those asked cited "helping me find new information" as the top benefit of mobile advertising. This is a positive sign for Africa Investigates, that may want to use this medium to publicize the series and gain viewers.
  • Sending reminders about times and places for public screenings

Internet on mobile phones: A powerful upcoming trend
"For many consumers, their first internet experience is via a mobile handset, and MTN is working tirelessly to ensure that every customer has access to the World Wide Web.” MTN Chief Technology Officer

Mobile internet subscriber numbers seems to be leapfroging fixed internet users on the African continent. Just as Africa skipped the landline and went straight to cell phones, so too the African "internet revolution" seems to be bypassing the static fixed "internet-computer" or even laptop-age. Indeed, in 2008, in South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania, mobile internet users outnumbered fixed internet users by the thousands[3] . In South Africa, 60% of mobile phone users are able to browse on their phones[4] . Additionally, MTN recently revealed plans to provide mobile broadband connectivity throughout South Africa and then throughout the continent[5] , which shall contribute to exponentially increasing the number of mobile browsers in the coming years.

This presentation highlights some of the exciting developments in the realm of mobile internet across all sectors in Africa.
Earlier in 2011, the Chinese company Huawei launched IDEOS, an $80 android phone, on the Kenyan market through Safaricom, a Kenyan telecommunications company. In a matter of months, over 350,000 Kenyans had purchased the device[6] . IDEOS' success clearly shows that when costs are not prohibitive, African consumers are ready and willing to invest in a smartphone. In addition, android phones like IDEOS support all types of applications and can thus be easily used as platforms for the creation and dissemination of new applications, such as an Africa Investigates mobile phone "app".

Furthermore, when considering mobile internet, “On device research” collected data in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. Their surveys incorporated 7,325 people. They found that most mobile internet users in Africa are aged between 13 and 34 years old (91%) and that 83% are male. Only 15% of respondents owned a smartphone, but nearly all owned a Nokia Symbian device. Interestingly, over 50% of mobile internet users went to sites to download games or music- this trend is encouraging since it suggests that these users may also be inclined to download short documentary clips[7] .

Distribution on mobile platforms: Strategies for Africa Investigates

Instead of bearing the up-front costs of reaching the young, urban elite by creating new online platforms through which to distribute content, Insight News TV should investigate the possibility of partnerships with the following companies. These companies have already developed mobile phone applications which allow users to watch small clips on their phones. These companies also already have a user base. Although the content currently distributed by these platforms (such as entertainment videos, celebrity gossip) may seem disconnected from the seriousness of Africa Investigates, these platforms should not be discounted. Indeed, marketing Africa Investigates in such a way may attract young Africans that may otherwise turn away from more traditional forms of media. Associating Africa Investigates with a "cool" platform may go a long way for promoting the documentary series within a certain demographic.

  • Afrinolly distributes African trailers (mostly Nollywood) and other movie-related materials on android phones. It was created by a Nigerian digital marketing agency called Fans Connect Online and launched in August 2011[8] . Africa Investigates could make trailers for its documentaries that could be distributed via this popular platform. The app also comes in blackberry and Symian versions and can be downloaded for free, making it accessible to virtually all African smart-phone users.
  • Zoopy is a similar platform to Afrinolly, although it has been in existence since 2007. Zoopy offers video infotainment on mobile phones as bite-sized videos of the latest news, sports and entertainment . Launched in South Africa, Zoopy received investment from Vodacom in 2008.

Caveats to this strategy

Despite the great potential for using mobile phones, several caveats cannot be ignored:
  • Electricity supply in many countries remains unreliable, which in turn has implications for mobile phone use,
  • Widespread illiteracy on the continent may also mean that certain tools (such as text messages) cannot reach a significant part of the population. For this reason, using other media, such as radio, remains attractive.

Return to Main Page
  1. ^ Feb. 10, 2010
  2. ^ Chung, Matthew "Strong potential for mobile advertising in Africa" 16 December, 2010
  3. ^
    Balancing Act, "Africa’s rapid mobile Internet growth will drive network expansion and media spend"
  4. ^ James Lamberti for InMobi: “A Global Consumer View of Mobile Advertising: Africa Results”, November, 2010.
  5. ^ GFMD, MTN Rolls Out Rural Mobile Broadband Project
  6. ^
    Ford, Jeremy. "$80 Android Phone Sells like Hotcakes in Kenya, the World Next?" August 16, 2011
  7. ^
    Alistair Hill for “On Device Research: Mobile Surveys & Research Panels”,
  8. ^ Google Announces Afrinolly mobile application,