The rise of the super apps



In the late 2010 and early 2012, as the influence of smartphones was being felt across the country, expectations were a tad high. It was about which brand should we use. The capabilities that we see now like multi cloud platforms, did not really exist. Although some have kept it traditional, ignoring the digital shift, the result is quite transformative.

Having an array of mobile applications means that what we used to do in the past is no longer applicable. It is about selling technology and solutions. Before, apps were scattered. But today, there are apps that put abunch of services together. The fact that smartphone use has increased the number of consolidated apps (of one app providing different solutions), the whole narrative of super apps requires a broader scope of thinking. This calls for the change of culture, tools and even methodology. It is no longer about choices but all of a new generation that is talking to the milestones and opportunities presented by the digital era.

By 2022, half of organizations will re-examine their use of mobile devices and conclude their technology doesn’t adequately address employees’ needs, leading them to explore a new generation of mobile apps. But why now, and what is driving the growth of super apps?

A majority of tech companies are working on creating solutions by infusing some level of digitization that can improve both discovery and efficiency. It is 5:00 am in the morning with regards to where this revolution is at, at the moment. The retail sector for example, is largely informal and fragmented. This not only leads to high prices for consumers but also a key barrier to distribution of goods by many sellers and manufacturers. 

At the same time, In Sub-Saharan Africa, less than 1% of the entire retail spend is online compared to 10% in the US and 15% in China. So for a long time, consumer goods distribution in Africa will be a hotbed of digital innovation as consumers and businesses demand for higher efficiency and convenience.

Even with the quick uptake, critics of the app economics argue that today’s user is hot in pursuit of convenience. That is partly the reason why certain applications attract volumes of customers. Take a look at Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisations that run on mobile apps. Most of them have advanced options that can not only enable users to form groups and invite friends but also pool funds and pay utility bills. That is just one example of an app that would attract volumes of customers.

In deed, growing consumption and urbanisation is another thing that is fuelling the growth of mobile applications. Users are moving to one single app. Online taxi services apps like Uber, Bolt (formerly Taxify), Little Cab and even Wasili were created in bid to make traveling easier. The past ten years, cabs were for the wealthiest in town. Today, it is the informal sector, which is pretty big, running the show. Mama mboga can now enjoy the convenience at pocket friendly rates. These apps are now roping in other services. Apart from the core service, Uber is also doing food (Uber Eats). Barclays’ Timiza app allows users to pay for cab, send and receive cash.

Single apps may soon be the old gold. A trend is seen whereby if a company has a range of services under one application, which are useful to customers, business thrives. Instead of creating an app to solve one solution, for example, you need to include capabilities so that users can access other services without having to off creating civic education for this kind of habit, and reducing the hype on this.

Since people want the so-called “new familiar”, it is better to create something new out of existing ones. It is about understanding the need (not the features). Use an app to solve one problem at a time.

Look at two sides. The core services side and the consumer side. As long as an app offers a platform for doing more, it is good. Almost half the population use taxi services. Now we have the mass, but before it was for the rich. The mass even with Sh200, Sh250 … can afford to use one. At the end of it all, you manage (as an investor) to rope in the chef, the doctor, the teacher, the barber man, the guard, and even the student. What matters is soaring trust, customer service, respect and loyalty to customer.

Clearly, it is a journey of different customer segments. App developers and companies behind super apps should be able to gather feedback in a positive way. This can be achieved through the app tools or word of mouth. Or, a player can turn to social media to ensure that whatever people are proposing are put into consideration. Whenever you engage with social media, the response can be positive or negative. It is only by engaging people that you will get the bigger picture, and provide a solution that is needed.