Predictions for the future of ICT in Kenya
It is time for consumer internet to rise.
2000 – 2010 was the decade of enterprise tech and cellphone providers (e.g Safaricom, Access Kenya, Craft Silicon and Seven Seas)
2010 – 2020 is the decade of the consumer internet. The time has come for websites and web apps which face the common mwananchi. Critical mass is approaching, and the competition for infrastructure means that pricing of phones and net subscriptions can only go down.
I have a strong conviction that by 2020, there will be at least 4 leading consumer internet companies, the so-called ‘Big Four’ as it were.
I look at trends in 2nd world countries such as Brazil and China, in order to get a feel of where our industry is headed. I borrowed this habit from Michael Joseph, who was known to look towards market behaviour in the ’2nd world’ in order to predict the future of the Kenyan market. Thus, areas of the internet that I’m bullish on locally are:
1. Media Portals
Here I’m talking a Kenyan media giant, similar to sina.com.cn from China, or vagalume.com.br from Brazil. Admittedly, this idea is not innovative, but the lucrativeness of media portals stems from how easy they are to understand and adopt, both on the users’ side, and on the advertisers’ side.
2. Digital downloads & Virtual goods
I believe that Kenya being a net importing country means that e-commerce concerning tangible goods is going to be very hard to execute. Kalahari.co.ke has proved this point recently. The low-hanging fruit in e-commerce in Kenya, I believe, lies in digital commodities. I think it will be easier to set up solid digital download stores that offer way better convenience, selection, pricing and customer service than your typical pirate shop in town.
Think Dealfish, but go one step further and imagine you were able to actually bid on the item and complete the transaction there and then. A Kenyan auction site would not suffer from the inventory problems of a typical e-commerce store (esp. when it comes to importing inventory).
I find it sad that no techie has been able to sufficiently monetize the football, rugby and athletics craze in Kenya. The proof of Kenyans’ willingness to bet on mobile has been proved during the recent wave of SMS lotteries that took us all by storm. Billions were made in only a few months, till the government had to put a stop to it! The fatal mistake of the SMS lotteries was that it was not a sustainable model. A media house can only run a promo for so long until they are forced to bring it to an end. The onus is on you bright young technocrats to create a sustainable model that doesn’t rely on some big media house promotion. I know about the government regulation surrounding this issue, but I think whoever is willing to make this idea happen is not going to let some rules written on a piece of paper separate him from his billions!