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Africa’s Love of Social Networking Leads to Homegrown Mobile Products

Africa’s thirst for social networking seems insatiable and homegrown products to meet this thirst, like MXit and 2go, have really got traction.

It’s a mixture of flirting, free messaging and meeting real people that draws people in. With the current numbers, advertisers will begin to use mobile as a media and support their development. Russell Southwood spoke to Marc Herson, 2go about how it will seek to expand.

2go is a mobile social network where people can use IM to chat with their friends for free and meet new friends in its chat-rooms. In total, it has over 20 million registered users, of which 3-3.5 million use it on a regular basis. Over the last 30 days there have been 8 million active users. Its biggest market is Nigeria (61% of total) which has 12.5 m users, followed by South Africa(31%) with 6.5 million users, followed by Kenya (4%) and Other (4%).

It’s continuing to grow at between 40,000-60,000 registered users a day.

All this has been achieved with virtually no marketing and lots of word of mouth. When users sign up, they can send notifications to their friends to join.

The users are young: 74% are 15-24 year olds in South Africa and 60% in Nigeria. The gender balance is almost equal in South Africa with 49% women but slightly more male in Nigeria with 64% men:”In South Africa, it’s the women cleaning our office and the person trying to sell me a prepaid mobile at the corner-store. In Nigeria, users are more educated and sophisticated.”

It is a profitable start-up launched by South African Anthony Davis.

Currently it’s self-funded but it may look for VC funding in the future. As Herson (part of whose background is in VC funding at Softbank) told us:”I’ve only recently joined 2go and I’m their first executive hire. I’m also an equity stakeholder in the business.”

It’s focused on giving users a light application that will work on low-end phones:”We are totally focused on creating the most nimble and light technology. A great deal of users in Nigeria have feature phones so it’s easy to use Java-based application. You simply download it, answer a few questions like your age and you’re ready to go.”

It supports around 1,000 different feature phones (J2ME), Blackberry (with BIS integration) and Android. Better still, its messaging integrates with Gtalk, Facebook and MXit Chat so users don’t have to choose between these applications.

The messaging is free but there are three premium elements: 1) a clickable full screen; 2) goFriends; and 3) a sponsored Chat Room. In addition, 2go is pitching to advertisers that click-through and user engagement rates are between 5-35%. It also offering market research through sending questions to its considerable user base…

Read more: All Africa




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