Vincent Maher, vice president of growth and product strategy at Mxit, Marc Herson, executive at 2Go and Brett St Clair, head of new products for Sub-Saharan Africa at Google at the Digital Services Africa conference. Image by HumanIPO.
Executives from African social chat apps 2Go and Mxit, as well a representive from Google, were discussing increasing social media revenues Digital Services Africa conference yesterday (Wednesday) in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Agreeing about the abundance of local talent on the app scene, panel members debated its chances in comparison to international competitors such as WhatsApp.
Marc Herson, director at social chat app 2Go, said: “Local apps can do the job lots better than global [role players], but there is not enough recognition.”
Vincent Maher, vice president of growth and product strategy at Mxit, said the local potential lies in startups, which is the reason why international providers are still leading due to the young nature of the (South) African ecosystem.
“Local is good enough,” he said.
However, Brett St Clair, head of new products for Sub-Saharan Africa at Google, does not believe local role players will be able to “win” against global service providers.
Referring to the success of the United States’ Silicon Valley, St Clair said ideas around competing should be changed from comparing successes and following trends to growing startups.
“Let’s forget about solving Silicon Valley problems…follow in the steps of Naspers,” St Clair said.
He explained Naspers was also once a startup in “even more difficult times”, adding the industry should realise the existence of local talent and follow by example in targeting emerging markets.
Partnerships were also suggested as a possibility for African growth.
Referring to current operation models, Maher said: “Culturally and structurally a lot of things have to change.”
Herson pointed to the local ecosystem in need for more investment to be built, specifically with support by over the top (OTT) players and operators when it comes to content provision.
“We want the operators to say: there is better technology companies locally, or being locally built, better than international companies and let’s support that,” Herson said.
“It’s really about scaling to the next level, which comes down to execution,” he said.
With regards to the next steps for social chat apps, more content provision is on the cards, though fixed future plans were revealed.
St Clair said the education of mobile users is significant in driving more data engagement, with integration needed to provide region-based services in every country.
However, Herson believes there lies danger in taking the risk of “trying to be everything to everyone”.
He said support for the ecosystem is needed for long term effectivity when it comes to competition.