At Asilia, Lulu and I have made it a principle to religiously devote time to pursue internal and personal projects. So Lulu has her Afri-love (a personal project) and I started and manage Afriapps (a platform showcasing apps from and for Africa), under the Asilia umbrella.
Afriapps has been live since November last year and in that time we have profiled over 60 African applications. In the process, I've noticed a trend that has me really excited – the emergence of Ghana as a promising place to watch for creative and exciting app development.
Five reasons why Ghana has got me buzzing:
1.Built to be sold
Economic development in sub-Saharan Africa has often been about aid and grants and sadly, in app development in some parts, this is still the case. It is reflected in the type of apps developed, how they are marketed and how they are funded. Ghanian developers seem to be bucking the trend by producing a stream of apps that are not to be sustained by aid but by paying clients or paid downloads. Cool apps that we have profiled and that I've actually bought include:
- Basic Swahili – Learn Swahili on your iPhone or iPad
- iWarrior – Defend your village from wild animals
- My Twi Name – Find out your Twi name
- Nkyea Twi Phrasebook – Learn Twi on your iPhone or iPad
2. Quality finishing
Often on Afriapps we see apps based on very good ideas and built well but, let down by unrefined finishing and design. Like everywhere else in the world, Ghana has its fair share of these but, where Ghanian apps stand out is in the high number of apps with quality finishing and design. One of the things that makes African apps globally uncompetitive is design and finishing and many Ghanian apps seem to be getting these aspects right.
3. Diversity of ideas and talent
Tied in with the concept of building them to sell them is the development of a variety of types of apps. Games, business apps, learning apps, eCommerce apps, etc. This diversity would be hard to achieve if the industry was mainly dependent on aid as donors often have a narrow band of sectors they see as worth funding.
4. Building an eco-system
One area that really excites me about Ghana is the various genuine efforts to develop a sustainable tech eco-system. One such effort is that of The Meltwater Group, an established software company from the US. It has setup the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) through its Meltwater Foundation to offer training and mentoring to software entrepreneurs in Ghana. The program has led to the successful launch of a string of startups, each very promising. Some examples include:
- Retail Tower – helps independent online shops have their products listed on comparison engines
- Gripeline – Enables businesses to manage their customer support and feedback
- Tutamee – a place to ask and find out what or who is best
5. Not loud but should be proud
Frankly speaking, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria seem to get most of the press when it comes to African tech. However, amidst all the noise, Ghana is steadily laying solid foundations that will enable them to compete internationally. And from articles such as these, it is obvious others are starting to notice.
Undoubtedly there are other promising pockets in the region. However, from my Afriapps perspective, Ghana has definitely got me impressed and excited about what's happening there. If you are aware of other remarkable regions worth shouting about, we'd love to hear about them and see how they compare to what's happening in Ghana.
Illustrations by Lulu Kitololo