The Emergence and Future of Super Apps in a mobile-first Africa

Last week, Cellulant announced the launch of its consumer brand Tingg- a payments, commerce and financial services super app. The term ‘Super app’ though not new, has mostly been used in the Asian market to describe some of the new products emerging in the consumer payments and fintech space.

In the African continent, this term is still relatively new and has not transcended the IT circles into the mainstream as everyday lingo. Africa, pretty much like Asia, has been a mobile-first continent with smartphones replacing PCs as the primary internet access point to a majority of internet users.

Unlike the United States and Europe where the ‘Super app’ business model has failed to take off,  Africa, like other emerging markets, offers the perfect environment for this model to not only thrive but to become the model of the future in the delivery of services to a mobile-first consumer.

This article explores a locally contextualised breakdown of what super apps are, what makes them unique and why they are the future in Africa’s digital economy as service delivery becomes more consumer-centric and mobile-driven.

 What is a super app?

The term ‘Super app’ was first used circa 2014 to describe Wechat.  Released in 2011 by Chinese internet giant Tencent, WeChat has since become one of the world’s largest standalone apps and boasts over 1 billion monthly active users.

A super app is an all-in-one, multi-functional mobile app that combines several services such as food/gas ordering, movie ticket online shopping and utility bill payments with features that include various payment methods, other financial services (lending/saving), communication (chats) into a single platform.

What characterizes a super app is its seamless, integrated, contextualized and efficient experience that collates all these single-purpose apps into one app giving saving consumers from app fatigue. 

A peek into the future typical day of a Tingg user
A peek into the future typical day of a Tingg user

Why Africa is the next best frontier for Super apps

Africa, with a population of 1.2B, is one of the fastest-growing consumer markets in the world with consumer expenditure growing at a compound annual rate of 3.9 per cent since 2010  to reach $1.4 trillion in 2015. This figure is expected to reach $2.1 trillion by 2025 according to a report by Brookings Institution on Africa’s consumer market potential.

Africa draws numerous parallels to Asia. The most significant being; a tremendous growth in population and consumer segments,  increased mobile adoption and a mobile-first approach to innovation.

Just like Asia, Africa’s population is young, growing fast and most are willing to adopt new technologies

Africa population which represents 16.2% of the world population is projected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050 with a growing youth population whose demographic is over 51%. Increasingly, African consumers are getting connected to the internet with a 35.2% internet penetration rate (453Mn already connected) and growing at 20% Year on Year.

According to GSMA, there will be 690 million phones in Sub-Saharan Africa,  in the next eight years, a growth of 440 million handsets. Africa, like Asia, is also a mobile-first continent where the revolution of fintech, and for the African continent, mobile money has further driven this mobile-first approach to consumer products and service delivery. Over 57 percent of the world’s mobile money accounts are located in sub-Saharan Africa (GSMA).

A peek into the future typical day of a Tingg user
Online shopping, food ordering & splitting bill on the Tingg Super app

Single Purpose App model & App Fatigue

Cheap smartphones from China have flooded the SSA phone market. Service providers within the retail space in the African region are now using this channel for delivery of their services not just to the urban but also to the rural consumers.

Unlike the west where digital banking and desktop-based e-commerce has taken off, the rural majority in Africa still use feature phones to access mobile money services. USSD (shortcode services) as still more widely used in most parts of Sub-saharan Africa than smartphone apps especially due to the cost of mobile data.

Over the last 10 years, however, there has been a saturation of apps. Nowadays, there is an app for everything you can think of and consumers are starting to get tired of simple, single-purpose apps.  Since the inception of apps, the model that has been used for the past 20 years according to Forbes, has been the Silicon Valley model of a ‘Single- purpose app’. 

For consumers in the continent, most of whom use low-cost smartphones with limited storage space, app fatigue has become a new reality; for every app a user installs, they have to uninstall an existing one.

The Super App Revolution

WeChat started out as Tencent’s mobile messaging app and has since become the poster child for this Super-app revolution because of its ability to amalgamate everyday services into one app giving consumers a single seamless, integrated, contextualized and efficient service and payment experience. 

By leveraging on its large addressable consumer, Super Apps create an ecosystem which allows its users to access separate features and services that were conventionally only available on different applications, via a single platform.  This is likely to greatly disrupted the way consumers interact with service providers in a mobile setting. 

The term ‘app’ need not dupe you into thinking that this service is only available to smartphone users. Cellulant’s Super app Tingg can also be accessed using a USSD short code service (by dialling *369# if you are in Kenya).

A peek into the future typical day of a Tingg user

Why are Super apps the future?

The super app model makes economic sense especially in a fast consumer growing and mobile-first market like Africa & Asia: its the ultimate in an app fatigued, consumer-centric and mobile money-driven digital economy that Africa is quickly becoming.

For the African consumers, the super app model is likely to take off quite well as it bundles multiple frequently used services such as monthly utility payments, money transfers, lending, and daily financial services into one app giving the user a single, seamless, yet multifaceted service and payment experience. 

The future of consumer seeks an easy way to get access to many different services, save on phone space, and have a single frictionless payment experiences that combine all your mobile and digital payment methods in one place.

To learn more about Tingg, visit https://tingg.africa/ 

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