App stores that have had notable successful over the years include Google’s Android and
Nokia’s Ovi stores. Photo/FILE
Mobile application development in Kenya is gaining speed as players rush to tap into the vast
pool of young tech entrepreneurs by offering training.Experts predict that mobile applications
will be the next big thing in five years.
Initiatives like mLab East Africa and several others by Nokia has seen Kenyans benefit from
fully-sponsored trainings on creation of mobile apps and how best to launch them into
the market, revealing a growing interest in the sector.Technology experts say the surge of
investments into the mobile telephony sector is an indicator that the country is in step with
the rest of the world in terms of software development as well as having the necessary pool
of individuals to actualise it.
“Kenya has a clear competitive advantage in the mobile application development
space with hundreds of programmers skilled in making everything from USSD and
SMS services to Android and iPhone apps”, said Mr Erik Hersman, director of operations
at the non-profit Ushahidi.
“It’s such a big deal here that we’re putting together a big event on June 14-15 called Pivot 25,
where East Africa’s top programmers and start-ups will vie for a position to pitch their new mobile
apps and services to over 400 of the industry’s leading experts and investors.”
In 2010, IBM Tech Trend Survey predicted that development of mobile software applications
in the world for devices such as iPhone and Android will surpass applications developed on other
traditional platforms in the next five years; with their net sale earnings increasing exponentially.
Kenya and the rest of the continent seem to have its pulse on this trend as was demonstrated
in a recent World Bank competition dubbed “Apps for Development.”
In the competition, budding software developers across the world were invited to create
applications using World Bank development data.Majority of the applications sent in were from
Africa – more than North America and Europe -with Kenya coming in third only to Uganda and
“The fact that African countries submitted the largest numberof apps is a testament to the
often untapped resource of burgeoning software developers in Africa. The talent is there and
must be recognised,” said Emeka Okafor, Maker Faire Africa Curator and the director for TED
Global 2007.Submissions from the continent range from Facebook and iPhone applications to
open payment platforms applications as well as those utilising Google Data and geovisualisation.
Riding on the increased interest of mobile application development in the continent, several
technology players come together to form a network with their sights trained on young
entrepreneurs, web and mobile-phone programmers, designers, and investors.iHub,
a tech community in Nairobi, has integrated with four other technology-focused start-up
incubators like itself across Africa with the aim of creating a web of connections, support, and
mentorship that will help technology entrepreneurs link and share innovations.
“Since the iHub concept has been so popular in Kenya, we are banding together with
like-minded leaders of other labs and hubs around Africa to found AfriLabs, an association of African
tech labs around the continent which will be the body that spreads this model
across Africa”, Mr Hersman said.
The mobile app industry offers a worldwide market for developers which Ken Mwenda,
managing director of eMobilis, likens to a global mall where you upload your application and
if people like and download it,you get paid.App stores that have had notable successful over
the years include Google’s Android and Nokia’s Ovi stores.Kenya hopes to emulate the gains
made by India in the software development arena.The Asian country has carved a niche for itself in the
sector, with gross revenues from software exports growing from 1.2 per cent from 1997-1998 to
5.8 per cent from 2008-2009.According to InvestinIndia.com, India’s software export revenue is
slated to grow by 13-14 per cent this year.In 2009, India earned $59.6 billion directly generated by the
software and services sector alone.
Additional reporting by Kui Kinyanjui