African technology developers are coming up with award winning innovative farming, social and health-themed mobile-phone apps specifically tailored to Africa’s unique challenges and opportunities. Here are our top 10 favourites.
In a continent which is fast developing, yet still grappling with poverty, inequality, natural disasters and unstable politics, the need for better infrastructure, more efficient health systems and access to basic necessities is a daily urgency. The good news is that Africa’s mobile penetration of 60% (predicted to reach 100% by 2014*) means organisations can bypass bureaucracy and deliver solutions directly to the everyday ‘mwananchi’ **, empowering Africans to lift themselves into a better life.
It’s also clear Kenya is becoming the epicenter for innovation and development in Africa with the majority of the apps listed below developed there mainly for android and non-smartphone users. It’s yet another encouraging sign that the tide is turning for this great continent.
Here’s our countdown of the top ten African apps in market:
M-Farm offers real-time market prices for crops, matching Kenyan farmers with buyers. As a transparency tool for Kenyan farmers, the app allows them to simply SMS the number 3535 to get information about the retail price of their products, buy their farm inputs directly from manufacturers at favorable prices, and find buyers for their produce. We’re especially encouraged for howw this allows remote farmers to plug into market updates and as a a result, keep up with the competition. http://mfarm.co.ke/
Already featured on Afritorial, M-Pepea is a fully automated app set to revolutionize Kenya’s credit system by offering instant loans to workers at a fee via their mobile phones. M-Pepea targets employees on full-time basis registered for the service and offers small emergency loans ranging from (US$58 to US$350) depending on pay-scale. Users can access loans anytime anywhere without the necessity of having to wait for advance approvals or having to visit a financial institution to request for emergency money. Find it here: http://mpepea.co.ke/
Foursquare’s African cousin is NikoHapa (“I am here” in Swahili), a social location app allowing users to discover new locations and connect up with friends. It also acts as a loyalty program by rewarding users who visit certain locations, retailers and restaurants, spend money and share these locations with their friends. users scan their phone’s address book to automatically detect when friends have joined NikoHapa and connect with them seamlessly. Download NikoHapa here: http://tinyurl.com/chf27t4
7. Africa Travel Guide
From the http://TomsApps.com suite of world travel guides, the Africa Travel Guide Offline (phone or tablet) provides comprehensive information on over 1,000 destinations. What’s great about it is that no Internet connection is required – all the data is stored within the app, so no matter where you are in Africa you can access it in the most remote places and avoid expensive roaming charges. The guide allows you to explore all the major cities (hotels, bars, restaurants, nightlife, entertainment, transportation, sights), discover places off the beaten track, and learn about everything in between. You can also add your own notes to each location and keep a list of your favorite places for easy access. plus explore locations on a map (requires network connection). Download it here: http://tinyurl.com/cwouw6e
Another great ipad app for travelers is the Travel Africa Magazine app - http://tinyurl.com/cqmb5se
6. Refugees United
There are millions of people especially across Sudan, Somalia, the DRC and North Africa, that have been separated from family and friends due to conflict or disaster and are desperately looking for their loved ones. Refugees United is an organization with one important mission: To reconnect refugees with their families, wherever they might be. Their app, also called Refugees United, allows users to search for lost family or friends in the NGO’s database. With it you can create a profile and search for family or friends in the Refugees United database. The app is accessible to all refugees – no official papers need to be filled in, and best of all, its free of charge. Download it here: http://tinyurl.com/7fq4t6v
We know some parts of Africa are not the safest. Now there’s an app to help you when you’re caught up in a spot of trouble. Olalashe, (which means “brother” in Maasai), on the Android platform, sends an SOS message to all emergency contacts on the user’s mobile, alerting them that the owner needs help. It allows you to: Enter your In-Case of Emergency (ICE) contacts, choose these contacts from your phone book, send an SMS that you are in trouble with a link to your location to all your ICE Contacts and has a single-click widget button to be located on your homescreen for quick access. Olalashe is a FREE app from Capefield. Download it here: http://tinyurl.com/6qf5sw6
Kenyan developers Shimba Technologies launched the MedAfrica app in 2011, that helps users diagnose symptoms and providing directories of doctors and hospitals with the aim to revolutionize how people in developing areas, particularly on the African continent, access and use health information. Set up as a sustainable business rather than on a “social good” charity model, the MedAfrica platform brings basic information about health and medicine to all phones — not just smartphones — and enabling people to use that information on their own. In countries such as Kenya, where on average 14 physicians must serve around 100,000 people, this kind of accessible, self-serve information could be vital in improving national health and wellness. MedAfrica can be found here, by visiting via your mobile phone browser: http://www.medafrica.org/
Aimed at farmers, iCow acts as a virtual veterinary nurse and midwife for subscribers, giving advice on gestation, milk production and fodder. The app now counts 6,000 small-scale dairy farmers on its SMS platform since launching in Kenya seven months ago. The app is treasured by farmers for helping them know when to give their cows maternity leave and when to cut napier grass for animal feed and generally increased their knowledge base and naturally upswing in milk production and profits. iCow Mobile App was recently featured on Forbes.com as the best new African Mobile App of 2011. For more information, please visit www.icow.co.ke/
More of a program, and less than an app, the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) works with low-income and at-risk mothers and families in countries with high populations of mobile phone users — to provide vital health information through SMS text messaging and simple voice messages. MAMA provides pregnant women and new mothers with targeted health information and care tips using SMS and voice calls. The system allows expectant women to register with their due date for free or affordable information on antenatal care and delivery services timed to their precise stage of pregnancy. The expectant mothers are also advised on birth plans and childcare, including breastfeeding. MAMA is making a three-year, $10 million investment to create and strengthen programmes in primarily in three countries around the world – Bangladesh, India and South Africa. For more information, please visit http://www.mobilemamaalliance.org.
An award-winning mobile money transfer service, M-Pesa was first launched by the Kenyan mobile network operator Safaricom, an affiliate of Vodafone, in March 2007. It quickly captured a significant market share for cash transfers, and grew astoundingly quickly, capturing 6.5 million subscribers by May 2009 with 2 million daily transactions in Kenya alone. As of November 2011, M-Pesa has over 14 million subscribers and well over 28,000 agents across the country. The service has since expanded to East Africa (Uganda and Tanzania) and has also been launched in South Africa, Afghanistan, India and Egypt. The phenomenal take-up of M-PESA, and the recognition it’s had worldwide (4 GSMA awards, 2011 Mobile Money Award winner and UN-Habitat winner) is clear evidence that innovative, yet simple and practical solutions really do make a difference where it counts. Visit the M-Pesa page: http://www.safaricom.co.ke/index.php?id=250
That’s the lot. Is there an app you believe is missing from this list? Let us know by commenting below OR visiting us on facebook.com./afritorial. We’d love to hear your feedback!
And finally, got a pirate problem? They’ll soon be an app for that too. The US Department of Defense will begin funding an Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored project aimed at developing web applications to help multinational navies police the world’s oceans, officials announced May 14. The International Collaborative Development for Enhanced Maritime Domain Awareness (ICODE MDA) was one of 14 projects selected by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to receive $1 million awards beginning this fall through the Coalition Warfare Program, which funds international collaborative research efforts.
*Mobile penetration in sub-Saharan Africa rests around 60% in 2012, and analysts anticipate growth to 75% penetration by 2016 – Mobile Africa 2012 report by Mobile Monday and Extensia.
** Mwananchi – Swahili for ‘citizen’