Mobile technology is evolving faster in Africa than Europe and what Africa needs is tech development skills, say South African brothers James and Nicholas Durrant, who started a digital company in the U.K. before turning their attention to Africa, according to a report in How We Made It In Africa.
Bluegrass Digital started in 1996 as a software development company and has since become a digital production agency specializing in designing, developing and delivering applications across web, mobile and online social platforms.
Now the brothers are focusing their attention on markets with high growth potential for their business, such as Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.
Smartphones use in Europe far outweighs numbers in Africa, but the development of platforms and technology in the mobile space is happening faster in Africa out of need, said Nicholas Durrant, managing director of Bluegrass, in a report in How We Made It In Africa. “Things like M-Pesa in (Kenya)… payment platforms, they are very popular,” he said. “They are used a lot because there is no other way to do payments…online.”
In Nigeria, Durrant said one of the biggest concerns in the market is getting the mobile version “of whatever we are doing. They are not actually interested in the website because the majority of users accessing a campaign or accessing the web will be (doing it) through mobile. So it’s certainly a bigger factor in Nigeria and also…development skills – that is an area that is lacking in a sort of young market that is evolving.”
Durrant is visiting Lagos for the first time to develop new partnerships. He plans on visiting Ghana in August.
“Everyone talks about Africa as a whole but actually within Africa each of these territories have unique ways of doing business,” he said. “So Nigeria has its own challenges and ways that business is conducted and so has Ghana, so has South Africa.”
Durrant said his company looked at smaller countries like Mauritius but decided to focus on markets with high growth potential.
“Nigeria is a tougher business place because it is a slightly more cowboyish type country,” he said. “It’s slightly more aggressive and less trusted, whereas Ghana and Kenya are kind of a softer touch, in terms of doing business… ”
When it comes to big business, Durrant said foreign companies should go and visit the African market where they want to increase business and meet their business partners in Africa personally. It is possible to find trusted business partners in African markets without visiting using online platforms like LinkedIn, he said.
African companies are excited to build partnerships with reliable companies outside Africa because they need to deliver reputable work for their clients, he said.
His advice for foreign businesses looking to partner with African companies where the only connection is over the internet: Get testimonials on them.