African Tech Flop of the Year

In an ever growing and innovative industry such as technology, there is little room for errors, and the sector is unforgiving. The HumanIPO team pick their biggest red face moments.

Gabriella Mulligan: Despite reaching the one billion user mark globally in 2012, Facebook has failed to engage with the African market – achieving approximately 4.3 percent penetration on the African continent, while rivals Mxit and 2go have stolen ahead with their Africa-focused services. Not to mention the numerous privacy related scandals that Facebook has caused over the year.

Tom Jackson: African digital migration in general, most pathetically demonstrated by the farces in Kenya and South Africa respectively. It is astounding how these countries thought they could meet the wildly optimistic deadlines they set themselves, and the incompetence that the whole fiasco is being overseen with puts even the 2015 deadline in doubt.

Gythan Munga:
Despite securing funding of KSh16 billion (US$192 million) from the African Development Bank (AfDB), which will be used for building its backbone infrastructure, Konza City lacks the incentive to attract enough local investors who are already shunning its process.

Kamau Mbote: Mkesho by Equity Bank and Safaricom. It was supposed to offer M-Pesa users as well as Equity Bank customers a chance to have a bank in their mobile phone. It was such a flop that Safaricom partnered with Equity’s rival CBA to launch a similar service, M-Shwari.

Elly Okutoyi: InMobi Closure in Africa. In October, the mobile advertising network announced its decision to close down its African and Russian offices, citing “a review in their operational model in the world offices” where it operates. This came as a surprise to many people, as the mobile advertising giant closed at a time when Internet and mobile penetration on the continent were on a steep rise.

Vince Matinde: This has to be the project on Tandaa Grants. A lot of heat has been generated by the Tandaa Grants this year. The Kenya ICT Board has had to defend themselves over the awards of the grants. After insistent defense, there is little to be seen from the grant process.

Robin Okuthe: Mobile number portability (MNP), which allows users to switch operators while retaining original subscriber numbers, is one of the worst technology flops implemented by the Communications Commission of Kenya. Rather than use MNP, subscribers prefer dual-SIM card handsets, multiple SIM cards or possessing two handsets. According to this year’s first quarterly results released by the regulator, only 6,646 in-ports took place, a small ratio when compared with the total number of mobile users that at that time (as of March) stood at 29.2 million.

Richard Cutcher: The ‘Instasham’. Within just 24 hours of announcing all photos uploaded onto Instagram could be sold or used for advertising by the site, the newly Facebook-owned social network was forced into an embarrassing reverse after huge public backlash which saw users delete the application and even celebrities speak out over the infringement.

Nanine Steenkamp: After rejecting the opportunity to invest in Korean KT Corporation, Telkom’s series of rather disastrous personnel issues have sent the company’s market value spiralling downwards. The loss of several board members and undesirable press attention with regards to government involvement furthermore scarred the network operator’s already chipped reputation. While predictions of their demise do the round, the company continues to compete against Neotel, the alternative to South African landline users.

Paul Adepoju: This award has MTN Nigeria written all over it. Both professionally and as an MTN Nigeria subscriber, I can categorically state that I don’t think any other African company or policy can flop that badly and still attempt to attribute blame to others.

Brandon Gregory: MTN in Ghana rated itself as the country’s most reliable voice and data network on its website. However, the Ghanaian National Communications Authority (NCA) ordered the mobile network operator to immediately cease selling SIM cards due to deteriorating network quality. This after the NCA engaged MTN on the matter on several occasions.

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