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Technology: African-made apps on the move

With desktops living in the shadows of their much cooler friends, mobile phones, continental app developers are responding to the needs of Africans on the move.

When it comes to chatting, playing and sharing, more people are doing it with a phone in their hand, so it’s no wonder that mobile applications (apps) are becoming more and more popular on the continent.

big tech brands are now developing their own devices – like phones and speakers – for the African market

In South Africa, Mxit has had the most success. It’s a free instant messaging service used by around seven million people.

MedAfrica and iCow are among the apps changing the continent

Mxit also permits apps that function on ‘feature phones’ – the mid-range phones a step below smartphones.

Check out Bookly, for example, a sophisticated e-reader that allows people with feature phones to access literary content.

Great for those who might not have access to high-end tech, the M-Pesa app is a money-transfer service launched by Safaricom in Kenya in 2007.

By 2011, it had more than 14 million subscribers. It is now available in Eastern and South Africa.

Tech writer Craig Wilson says: “It’s definitely one of the most popular African apps, but in South Africa Vodacom has battled to get users to take up the service, in part because of the number of competitors in the market.”

In Uganda, five music lovers created Zikify, a music streaming and artist discovery app that focuses on East African tunes and talent.

“While popular streaming services like Spotify and Pandora may not work locally, apps like ZikifyKleek and NokiaMixRadio have all filled a digital void when it comes to streaming music in and around the African continent,” says Tiana Cline, managing editor of tech blog htxt.Africa.

“Take into account the fact that big tech brands are now developing their own devices – like phones and speakers – for the African market, and you can really appreciate how music has redefined the digital landscape,” she explains.

If film is your thing, South African documentary filmmaker Tarryn Crossman, who spends a lot of time in Lagos, suggests the Afrinolly app.

And if you’re planning a trip check out Africa Travel App. It offers information on 1,000 African destinations, focusing on entertainment, safety tips, attractions, hotels and culture.

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