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Gauteng Emerging as South Africa’s App Development Hub

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

South Africa app

Gauteng province in South Africa is fast emerging as a center for app development on the continent.

It wasn’t long ago that finding an Internet connection in Sub-Saharan Africa was next to impossible. Today, the scene couldn’t be more different: millions of young Africans are as connected to the Internet as their European or American counterparts. Through mobile phones and devices, many of the logistical challenges surrounding Internet infrastructure have been avoided. African businesses have been particularly aware of the potential of the Internet. Many small businesses are taking full advantage of the options available to them through app creation, and certain areas are fast emerging as app development hubs. According to Cassie Lessing, the Managing Director of the Strato IT Group, Gauteng Province, where both Pretoria and Johannesburg lie, is leading the way in app development.

In the Middle of it All

It comes as no surprise, then, that the province that is home to South Africa’s de facto and legal capitals should be a hub for innovation. As new businesses make their way into the market, app developers are highly sought after: the app economy is expected to create trillions of dollars of direct and indirect opportunities around the world, and Africa is no exception. The African Internet population is so mobile that they are poised to leapfrog directly into the era of apps, bypassing the cumbersome online experience. There are numerous websites where businesses can look for app development companies and individual developers, a fascinating look at the truly online nature of the future.

Already the country’s economic powerhouse, Gauteng provides app developers with more resources than they would have elsewhere. With a plethora of cool hang-outs and co-working spaces, young thinkers are able to learn from one another in informal environments, thus enriching each individual’s skill set. The apps that are being developed are varied and seem to span across nearly every field: news, government information, entertainment, healthcare services, mining, logistics, shopping and banking are just a few of the numerous industries in which apps have recently emerged.  “Economies rely on information to function effectively and the app economy represents a leap forward towards the goal of an informed and efficient knowledge-based society. Organizations that do not adopt and utilize the emerging technologies like mobility, digitization and cloud will be disadvantaged and lose out to the early adopters,” Lessing says.

Piloting the Future

Lessing’s company, the Strato IT Group, has been quick to capitalize upon the growing app market. Strato boasts an impressive “satisfied clients” portfolio, with big names such as Toyota, Deloitte and Babcock, to name a few. Unlike other companies in their field, Strato claims it prioritizes face-to-face relationships rather than the faceless services provided by mainstream IT companies. Ironic, given that a common side effect of mobile apps is to reduce the time users spend making face-to-face interactions with the world around them.

With a reputation built upon excellence, Strato has long been the go-to company for businesses looking to enhance their online presence. They now provide clients with app management, app development and consulting, as well as the newer “Application Management Outsourcing” (AMO) whereby Strato finds developers with the required “scarce skills” to handle a client’s needs.

The Strato IT Group has begun a pilot project whereby consumers (companies in need of apps) are able to connect with developers and be a part of the app creation process. This allows consumers to access experts while maintaining their company’s identity. “This approach not only serves to test and enhance product, but also provides valuable raw material for proof of concept and proof of value exercises,” says Lessing of the project.

The Future is Now

Strato exemplifies the opportunities available for businesses from any sector: connecting businesses with app developers not only increases the visibility of both parties, but provides users with services that increase ease of access. Apps developed through the Strato IT Group and elsewhere have already increased the efficiency with which South Africans can go about their daily lives: the recent launch of an app-accessible stock market, the creation of cheap fuel finding apps and app-based coupons have all made life a little easier and a little cheaper for South Africans.

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Egypt’s telecom regulator approves revised terms for 4G licences

Comments (0) Business, Latest Updates from Reuters, Middle East

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s telecoms regulator has approved revised terms for 4G mobile broadband network licences, and said it will send them out to operators on Sunday.

The government offered four 4G telecom licences in June, to Telecom Egypt and to the country’s three mobile services providers – Orange Egypt, Vodafone Egypt and Etisalat – but only Telecom Egypt accepted the terms. The regulator, keen to prioritise existing carriers, decided to revise them.

A senior official at the Telecommunications Ministry told Reuters on Wednesday that the revised terms include additional frequencies but there is no change in the pricing or the condition that 50 percent of the payment for the licences must be made in U.S. dollars.

“The telecom regulator approved the final terms of the 4G licences yesterday,” the official said, adding that companies would have until midday on Sept. 22 to accept them.

The National Telecom Regulatory Authority later issued a statement confirming it approved the final terms and that the companies had until Sept. 22 to accept.

The government, which is grappling with a shortage of hard currency as economic and political turmoil in Egypt in the past few years has deterred foreign investment, has said it hopes to raise 22.3 billion Egyptian pounds ($2.5 bln) in total in licence fees.


(Reporting by Ehab Farouk; Writing by Ola Noureldin; Editing by Greg Mahlich and Susan Fenton)

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Standard Bank joins rush to mobile banking

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Africa mobile banking

The largest bank on the continent has launched a pan-African application in five countries that enables financial transactions across borders.

The largest bank on the continent is rolling out a pan-African banking application as it shifts its business toward mobile.

The action by Standard Bank – African’s largest bank by assets – reflects a growing trend of financial institutions moving to mobile financial services that so far have been dominated by telecoms.

Standard’s mobile banking has been doubling year over year, according to Peter Schlebusch, the bank’s chief executive for personal and business banking.

Standard has launched the mobile application in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Uganda and Ghana and plans to launch in Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Zambia later this year.

The app reflects a significant investment by the Johannesburg-based bank to give customers convenient access to their accounts regardless of their location, a bank representative said.

Transactions can cross borders

Standard Bank app

Standard Bank app

Adrian Vermooten, head of Africa Customer Channels for Standard Bank, said the app is one of the first in Africa that enables transactions across borders.

The app takes advantage of sophisticated smartphone technology, including biometrics. In the future, features including real time payments, online account opening and other services for individual consumers or businesses will be added to the app.

The app reflects the bank’s goal of becoming a “universal bank” for Africa, Vermooten said. The bank, with global assets of about $165 billion, operates in 20 markets across the continent.

“We’re trying to be really focused on Africa and take out the friction of dealing in Africa,” Schlebusch told Forbes, noting that the new app will enable customers to execute transactions across borders.

“The pan-African app will enable customers to view the whole bank regardless of their geography or what kind of customer they are,” he said.

ATM transactions decline

The bank last year processed more than 800 million transactions worth nearly $30 billion through its banking application while in-person branch and ATM transactions shrunk to less than 5 percent of all transactions, Schlebusch said.

Standard’s experience underscores two shifts taking place on the continent. One is the rapid trend toward consumer use of mobile technology for financial transactions. The other is the move by banks for a share of the market previously dominated by telecommunications companies.

In 2014, mobile financial transactions generated $656 million in revenue in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the research firm Frost and Sullivan ICT. That amount will nearly double to $1.3 billion by 2019, Frost and Sullivan predicted.

According to the World Bank, growth in mobile banking in Africa has outpaced other regions in which it operates. Sub-Saharan Africa was the only region in which the World Bank operates where more than 10 percent of adults have a mobile banking account.

Meanwhile, one expert said that African banks are taking the lead globally in ensuring security of mobile financial transactions.

Schalk Nolte, chief executive officer of Entersekt, said African banks are placing security at the center of the app will add mobile development, setting an example that other banks can follow.

Globally, banks have led development of mobile banking. But in Africa, telecoms have been the major players in mobile financial transactions because far more Africans have mobile phones than have bank accounts.

More phones than bank accounts

According to the World Bank, 40 percent of Africa’s 1.4 billion residents have a mobile phone while less than 25 percent of the population has a bank account.

But banks like Standard are working to change that. A top East African bank announced plans to enter the market while banks in Cameroon and Mali are also trying to tap into the continent’s rush to electronic payments.

In Kenya, Equity Bank, the country’s largest in terms of number of customers, is providing customers with SIM card overlays that enable them to securely access their accounts on their phones.

In Nigeria, GT Bank is partnering with Etisalat Nigeria, one of the country’s larger mobile operators, to create a savings account that can be opened on a mobile phone.

Pan-African Ecobank is partnering with the telecom Orange Cameroon to enable customers to transfer money between the two services. The companies have launched the service in Cameroon and Mali and expect to offer it to Ivory Coast, Guinea Conakry and Niger in the future.

South Africa presents a contrasting example. In that country, where 75 percent of the population has a bank account, M-Pesa failed to take hold and folded its operations earlier this year.

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Pokemon Go fever seizes Africa

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Pokemon Go South Africa

Pokémon Go has only been out for a month, but its popularity has led to global game-play including in many African countries.

The world has caught Pokémon fever and Africa has not been immune. Even though there is no official launch date for Pokémon Go anywhere in the continent, it is easily available to download from the app stores for those savvy and desperate enough to play ahead of its release. In the month since its launch it reportedly has more than 75 million players worldwide, overtaking Twitter for global users.

Pokémon Go is a 2016 release from Niantic, in collaboration with Nintendo who released the original game 20 years ago. Unlike the archetype which was played in a world contained inside a handheld Gameboy, Pokémon Go is set in an augmented reality universe. Players roam their real world which is overlaid with computer-generated imagery, attempting to catch creatures and battle them in simulated fight scenes. This is the first release of the game and it is predicted to launch versions where players can battle other players instead of AI characters.

Pokémon Go captures attention throughout the African continent

The game has been particularly popular in South Africa, with regular ‘meet-ups’ throughout the country, including in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Recent meet-ups in Port Elizabeth have even been coupled with aid drives for animal charities, capitalizing on the success of the app and need for players to gather in prime locations.

Similarly in Nigeria, there has been a veritable craze for Pokémon catching all over the country. Not long ago, an online craze would have been unthinkable in a city like Lagos, famous for its patchy mobile coverage. Recent improvements have changed matters however, with providers promising 3G coverage for 90% of the country and fiber-optic rollouts imminent.

Ghana and Kenya paint a similar picture with players roaming the streets looking for creatures and convening in “hotspots” in all major towns. Unlike in the western world, where Pokémon Go is widespread, in Africa it’s only the affluent and developed areas that seem to be picking up on the craze. This is due to the higher than average ownership of smartphones, coupled with access to mobile data services, along with generally higher socioeconomic circumstances.

Pokemon Go gathering in Cape Town

Pokemon Go gathering in Cape Town

Pokémon Go’s success drives sales for other businesses

While Nintendo has seen a rise in $7.5 billion to its market value, Pokémon Go has also been profitable for local businesses, utilizing their location or certain elements of the game to attract customers and drive sales. Many bars and restaurants, such as Beerhouse and Steers Fast Food in South Africa are offering unique promotions connected to the game, and using social media to promote Pokémon locations near their business. Some venues have even been placing Pokémon “lures” to promote their happy hours and organizing walks and Pokémon Go-themed events. Many South African “meet-ups” have also combined Pokémon catching with charitable drives, such as for local animal charities in the area.

With increased real world interaction and a new global interface, the drawbacks are obviously related to player security. According to insurance group Dialdirect, users in South Africa need to be cautious when playing, as they could become easy targets for crime. Many areas in Africa are dangerous for solo pedestrians to be walking around at night, or with their smart phones clearly on display. Crime that has been seen in other countries could be amplified in some of Africa’s more unsafe regions, particularly if users enter into those areas unknowingly and without weighing up necessary risk factors. “We usually recommend that consumers conceal their smart phones and that they don’t unnecessarily brandish them about” said Dialdirect spokesperson, Bianca de Beer.

Playing can be a real life danger to users

Users risk their online security as well as their real-life security by irresponsibly playing the game. While Pokémon Go is not officially available in Africa, illegitimate users risk their phone’s security by accessing the app via third party channels, leaving their device open to hackers. According to a statement by IT security company Sophos‚ there is already one “malware” mirror version of the Pokémon Go app out there and being downloaded. Users are urged to play with caution and not put themselves into risky situations, in real life or otherwise.

As the technology wave surges across Africa, connecting ever more people to internet and data services, Pokémon Go and its successors are likely to usher in a new generation of avid gaming enthusiasts. With such popularity in Africa even before its official release, Pokémon Go seems to be here to stay.

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MTN Nigeria on track to list on local stock exchange in 2017

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Africa’s biggest mobile phone operator MTN Group said on Thursday its Nigeria unit is on track to list on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in 2017 as part of an agreement with the Federal Government.

MTN had said in June its local unit would list on the NSE after agreeing to pay a reduced fine of $1.7 billion in a settlement with the Nigerian government of a long-running dispute over unregistered SIM cards.

MTN Nigeria aims for the listing to take place during 2017, subject to market conditions.

MTN is the largest mobile phone operator in Nigeria with 57 million subscribers, and the country accounts for about a third of its revenue.

MTN Nigeria appointed Stanbic IBTC Capital, Standard Bank of South Africa and Standard Advisory London, and Citigroup Global Markets, as joint transaction advisors and global coordinators, with Stanbic acting as lead issuer.


(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by David Holmes)

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StanChart launches mobile banking push in Africa as rivals retreat

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – Standard Chartered is to launch its mobile and online banking platform in eight African countries, its consumer banking chief for the region told Reuters, as the lender seeks to grow in Africa at a time when some European banks are retreating.

StanChart will launch the service for its 1 million customers in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe in the first half of 2016, the bank’s regional head for retail banking Jaydeep Gupta said.

“Africa’s populations are moving quickly to embrace mobile banking and local banks have made material investments on the digital side, so to protect and grow our market share we are investing,” he said.

Gupta said StanChart hopes to grow long-term retail banking revenues in Africa by three to four times the pace of the region’s growth in economic output.

The bank’s strategy stands in contrast to European rivals who have beat a rapid retreat from Africa in recent years, stung by plunging commodities prices and weaknesses in African currencies.

Barclays said on March 1 it was seeking to sell its African business as part of a plan by new Chief Executive Jes Staley to simplify the bank’s structure.

The International Monetary Fund on May 3 cut its 2016 growth forecast for sub-Saharan Africa by 1 percentage point to 3 percent, the lowest level in 15 years and half the average over the last decade.

The tough environment has seen bank stocks in Africa plunge and lenders in countries such as Kenya and Zambia fail.

StanChart is nonetheless expanding its physical presence in the region, adding 10 branches in the Nigerian capital of Lagos as part of a strategy to focus on Africa’s capital and top-tier cities which Gupta said account for roughly 80 percent of consumer banking revenues.

Gupta declined to put a figure on the bank’s Africa investment. Africa accounts for 10 percent or around 8400 of the lender’s total employees, and StanChart made a net loss in the region of $32 million in 2015 on rising bad loans, according to company data.

Former Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond is also optimistic about the region and is bidding on his former employer’s African unit, even as his investment vehicle Atlas Mara reported a $2 million loss for the first quarter as its African banking investments struggled. [nL5N18N0XB]

StanChart’s Gupta, like Diamond, advocate looking beyond Africa’s short term economic woes.

“Africa is a multi-speed market with some countries such as Kenya bounding ahead while others like Zimbabwe and Nigeria remain challenging, but we see attractive long-term growth opportunities for the continent,” Gupta said.


(By Lawrence White. Editing by John O’Donnell, Greg Mahlich)


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MTN Group sees pressure on profit margins in South Africa, Nigeria

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – MTN Group expects earnings to be under pressure for the rest of the year in its two main markets Nigeria and South African market, the company said on Wednesday, citing a weak exchange rate in Africa’s biggest economy.

Africa’s biggest mobile network operator by subscribers said in statement that weak economic growth in its key markets and tough competition could also negatively impact performance.

MTN said it was still negotiating a $3.9 billion fine by Nigerian authorities as the west African country.

Nigeria is pushing telecoms firms to verify the identity of subscribers amid worries that unregistered SIM cards were being used for criminal activity in a country still battling with Islamic militant group Boko Haram.


(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing by James Macharia)

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African banks want share of growing e-money market

Comments (1) Africa, Business, Featured


A top East African bank competes with a major telecom in Kenya as mobile banking booms.

A top East African bank hopes to challenge a telecommunication company’s dominance in electronic mobile-payments service and gain a larger share of Kenya’s electronic banking trade.

Banks in Nigeria, Cameroon and Mali are making similar moves to tap into the continent’s mushrooming market in electronic payments.

In 2014, mobile money transactions generated $656 million in revenue in sub-Saharan Africa and that amount expected to double to $1.3 billion by 2019, according to the research firm Frost and Sullivan ICT.

In much of the world, banks are the leading providers of electronic payment services. But in Africa, where more people have mobile phones than have bank accounts, telecommunications companies have been able to dominate the market.

According to the World Bank, fewer than 25 percent of Africa’s 1.4 billion people have a bank account while 40 percent have a mobile phone.

Equity offers SIM card overlay

Now, Equity Bank, Kenya’s largest in the number of customers, and other banks want to tap into a growing market.

Equity, which also operates in Tanzania and Uganda, seeks to compete with M-Pesa, Safaricom’s popular mobile payments service.

Equity has begun providing its clients with a super thin SIM card overlay that enables them to access their accounts on their mobile phones.

The service, called Equitel, is powered by Safaricom’s rival telecom, Airtel Kenya.

Equity Bank contends that market should belong to the banking sector, not the telecoms.

“We have a major problem with the mobile provider also providing financial services,” John Staley, the bank’s chief of finance, innovation and technology said. “You cannot have the freight company controlling the tracks.”

M-Pesa enjoys popularity Kenya

Safaricom is the Kenya subsidiary of the global telecom colossus Vodafone Group, based in the United Kingdom.

Launched in 2007, M-Pesa has more than 12 million active users and processes more than $18 billion in transactions yearly.

The launch of Equitel follows a yearlong legal battle in which Safaricom raised questions about the security and privacy of Equity Bank’s SIM card plan. A Kenyan court ruled in favor of Equity, enabling the project to move forward.

Bank, telecom partner in Nigeria

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, GT Bank is partnering with Etisalat Nigeria, the nation’s third largest mobile operator to create GTEasySavers, a savings account that can be opened on a mobile phone.

Mobile banking is not as large a market in Nigeria as it is in Kenya. But with mobile penetration of 80 percent and only 57 percent of adults lacking bank accounts, it may be poised to take off.

The mobile market in West Africa is growing. It was valued at $17 billion in 2014 by the market research company Ovum. Mobile data revenue totaled $3 billion, up 30 percent from the year before.

Pan-African Ecobank is partnering with the telecom Orange Cameroon to enable Orange customers with Ecobank accounts to transfer money between the two services. The companies have launched the service in Cameroon and Mali and plan to extend it to Ivory Coast, Guinea Conakry and Niger.

Orange Money is currently available in more than a dozen countries in the Middle East and Africa. With over 16 million customers, the service transferred about $9 billion in 2015.

M-Pesa fails in South Africa

South Africa, where 75 percent of the adult population has banking services, provides a contrasting example of poor demand for a telecomm payment platform.

In May, Vodacom, a Vodafone subsidiary and the country’s largest mobile network, announced it was terminating its effort to attract South Africans to M-Pesa after the service failed to catch on in the continent’s most economically advanced nation.

The company had hoped to sign up 10 million South African users when it launched M-Pesa in 2010. However, by 2015, only one million people had signed up and only 76,000 were active on the platform.

“The success factors for M-Pesa in Kenya were not present in South Africa,” said Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of the technology research firm World Wide Worx.

Usage grows in other countries

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub said the company saw “little prospect” of M-Pesa being successful in the near term. The service will end June 30.

Vodacom said it would continue to offer M-Pesa in markets where banking access is more limited and M-Pesa usage is growing, including Mozambique, Tanzania, Lesotho, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In Kenya and other countries where mobile transactions are popular, consumers likely will benefit from new competition in the e-money marketplace, according to a consultant with the World Bank.

“As long as pricing is low enough, mobile money services and healthy competition will benefit consumers and increase financial inclusion, tech consultant Martin Warioba said.

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Afroplan: 21st Century Coupons

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured


Afroplan is a new online and mobile platform that connects users in Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Togo with grocery store chains to learn about discounts and promotions in real-time.

Big-box grocery stores are still a relatively new phenomenon in developing countries. Until just a few years ago, the vast majority of citizens living in even the metropolitan areas of such countries did their grocery shopping in locally-run markets filled with locally or regionally sourced foods. With the increase in chain grocery stores around the world, shoppers are adapting to the “one-stop-shop” mentality, including the concept of discounts and promotions.

Coupon Cutting in the Digital Age

Afroplan is a new mobile and online platform created by Cletus Razakou, a young Ivorian-Togolese digital expert and app developer. Afroplan bridges the gap between retailers and consumers by allowing users to input their personal data, such as location and material interests, and alerting them when a near-by retailer has a discount on a relevant item. While currently present only in three West African nations, a region home to 37 or 13% of Africa’s commercial centers, Afroplan is available on all smartphone platforms.

Users are able to input all varieties of material interests, from specific food items to the latest tablet, and are able to make informed choices about the right time to buy. Razakou was frustrated by the lack of communication between retailers and consumers regarding promotions, and realized that if a platform were created where retailers and consumers could alert one another about promotions, more Africans would benefit from these bargains.

This not only benefits consumers, but benefits retailers: many stores experience financial losses due to the expiry of food-products or to the fast turnover of tastes and preferences in material goods. Stores are now able to inform a broader range of consumers about potential savings while ridding themselves of soon-to-be-obsolete stock.

Benefits for All

The platform works through a two-pronged approach: the first is that supermarkets and other retailers are charged a flat fee to post individual promotions. The second is that sellers can purchase specialized advertising space to reach a broader range of consumers, including those who have not specifically listed a product as one of their interests. This is not only beneficial for the app as a money-making scheme, but is beneficial to retailers: the more specialized advertising they purchase, the more people see their products, and the more people will be interested in purchasing a discounted item, even if they had not listed it as a preferred item. In this way, retailers are able to expand their consumer base by creating a culture of desire while preventing losses incurred from expired and unsold products.

Of course, users benefit as well: they are now able to make informed choices about how to best-spend their hard-earned money. Consumers are able to choose from eight categories of goods: fashion, home decor, electronics, beauty, telephones, infant/baby, food, and overstock items.

Initial Challenges

Creating an app for an emerging industry is not without its challenges. Razakou said that the main challenges during this process were financial. It was challenging, Razakou said, to publicize the platform to potential clients (stores) and users in an efficient manner in all three countries, because they had not yet received investments from clients. Fortunately, Afroplan’s initial success indicates that financial barriers may no longer be prohibitive for expansion.

The Future of Bargaining?

Afroplan is an interesting, innovative approach to discount consumption. Connecting users in real-time to see the latest discounts is a new way to encourage consumption in West Africa, and, for those living in areas with supermarkets that opt to work with Afroplan, could lead to substantial savings on big ticket items. Unlike shopping at a local African market, buyers are not generally able to bargain in a supermarket, which takes the power away from the consumer. Afroplan gives shoppers some modicum of power when supermarkets are growing in popularity and number. No longer do citizens of Senegal, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire have to choose between the convenience of a one-stop-shop and the potentially low prices of shopping at good-specific markets.

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Keeping In Step: Competition for Anghami Music App in MENA

Comments (0) Business, Featured, Middle East


Anghami, a recently launched Lebanese music listening platform, is facing fierce competition from the French company Deezer, which recently announced an expansion into some Middle Eastern and North African countries.

Mobile music listening platforms have rapidly become the norm, and with an ever-expanding variety of services, competition is fierce between geographically isolated competitors. Anghami, a newly launched Lebanese mobile music platform, gained more than half a million users in its first three months on the market, leaping to the top of iOS app lists in 12 MENA countries. A reported 30% of Anghami subscribers use the app daily, indicating strong staying power, and the app has already been shortlisted for a variety of MENA technology start-up awards.

While Anghami has burst into the scene as a regional leader, it is now being threatened by French music platform Deezer. Deezer, which boasts more than 7 million active users, announced that it would be putting $130 million towards an expansion into the MENA region. Deezer will soon be available in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, UAE, and Yemen, encroaching very seriously on Anghami’s territory.

Not Missing A Beat

While Deezer may have more experience than Anghami, Anghami was specifically created for Arab users. Anghami’s founder, Elie Habib, was very conscious of his demographic’s needs: consumers in the MENA region prefer mobile music that can be easily shared with friends, and so Anghami is only available on smartphones. Anghami is widely available on most smartphone platforms to cater to its clients’ varied phone plans.

Unlike Anghami, Deezer is available both on smartphones and through the web, but is more limited in terms of platform compatibility because its current, mostly European users have a smaller variety of phones.

Anghami is also conscious of its users’ interest in learning about new music through the app. To meet this need, Anghami has a personal DJ function that enables users to discover new music. Deezer has no such function. While currently in English, Anghami is reportedly working on an Arabic version to drive home its local focus. Currently, 75% of Anghami’s users’ phones are set in English, and 25% are in Arabic. Creating an Arabic language version would create a better sense of inclusion for 25% of users and may increase appeal amongst Arabic speakers around the region. Anghami is very MENA focused, and is only available in 15 countries. Habib points to this as one of their strong points: they are focused on a very niche group, and can better tailor the app to meet their needs and changing demands, unlike Deezer, which is now expanding for a more global reach.

The Customer is Always Right

In keeping with its regional focus, Anghami not only provides its users with access to international music, but has specific sections for Arabic music as well. Users with premium access can download songs from Anghami to their phones and listen when there is limited or no internet available. This is especially important for a region that does not have 100% internet coverage. For users in, say, the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, being able to download music would be incredibly important.

Anghami’s premium service enables users to share downloaded music with friends on social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter, and is ad free.

While Anghami boasts many intriguing aspects, Deezer’s global reach and larger consumer network has made it much more globally attractive. Not only does Deezer provide a similar new-music service, but the app tracks listening trends and personalizes playlists. Users with the premium app can opt to see the lyrics of their favorite songs in real-time, thus preventing the age-old embarrassment of belting out nonsense. Since Deezer is available across language barriers, this may be a very interesting feature for people whose first (or second) language is not English. Anghami has not specifically addressed this feature, but it seems as though it would be a good opportunity to incorporate into their Arabic language platform.

Welcoming The Big Fish Into A Not-So-Small Pond

Co-founders Eddy Maroun and Elie Habib did their due diligence before launching Anghami, securing deals with key regional and international labels. Several Arab artists have released their albums only through Anghami, making the appeal of new music even greater. Deezer has similar contracts with one major exception: Anghami has an exclusive three-year contract with Rotana, one of MENA’s biggest labels, for streaming in Lebanon, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Not only is Anghami strategically linked with important labels, but it is also working on partnerships with telecom companies. For a platform solely available on mobile networks, this is the key.

The question is whether users will move from Anghami to Deezer once their playlists and preferences have been set. Deezer has a much larger catalog of music (more than 40 million titles), but, as Habib points out, “most people only listen to 100,000 songs. What you really care about is the core catalog…by May or June we’ll have 5 or 6 million songs.” As demonstrated by their soon-to-be dual language platform that caters specifically to smartphone users, Anghami is focused on regional appeal, rather than the number of songs available.

Entry Power VS Staying Power

Habib has a very positive outlook for the future of Anghami in MENA, even after the arrival of Deezer. “We’re pretty excited to have Deezer coming in. It validates that we are in the right place at the right time. We’re looking forward to having a healthy competition. At the end of the day, the user benefits from it,” says Habib.

Anghami is shiny, new, and specifically designed for an Arab clientele; Deezer is nearly a decade old and has millions of followers from most regions of the world. Anghami’s website features popular Arab artists as well as internationally known musicians, and has photos that are likely a more accurate representation of their users. Perhaps Deezer has plans to use some of its $130 million commitment to design an Arab-friendly website as it expands into MENA, but Anghami’s specific design will, hopefully, give it a boost.

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