Africa's Self-Care App Challenge - Snapshots of Winners and Losers Across Seven Countries

25 September 2020

London — Self-service - where a customer uses an app or website to service their own needs - is more widely accepted outside of Africa. The potential cost savings are large if it can be done successfully. Russell Southwood looks at progress with self-servicing apps in seven key markets.

Want to top up your minutes or your data bundle but don't want to go into your nearest MNO outlet? Want to check the level of your bundle? Have a query but can't bear waiting on the line to the call centre? Fed up with call centre staff who aren't helpful?

The self-service app was designed for those MNO subscribers who answer yes to all or some of these questions. They can combine m-payment, top up and queries for the person who is confident in using their smartphone. From the operator's point of view, the more customers service themselves, the less they have to pay for call centre and store staff. The other thing you can do is to set up AI processes to be able to offer app users products and offers that fit their pattern of consumption.

In the African context, there is very little public research on how customers see self-service. In South Africa, according to reports from CRM News, in 2013 only 11% of customers expressed an interest in self-service across all industries. By March this year that same figure had risen to 81% and 67% said specifically that they would prefer to self service than talk to a company representative.

However, using a self-service app in telecoms terms implies the user has: a) a smartphone; b) some confidence in using software driven, online processes; and c) has the literacy - both reading and writing and technical - to be able to handle b).

The tables use Android phone downloads as these are the phones with the overwhelming market share in nearly all African countries. These are compared in table one to the latest subscriber figures available.

In Table 1 below, the My Vodacom app in South Africa is fairly exceptional because a quarter of all its subscribers have taken the time and trouble to download it. Neither MTN or Cell C come anywhere close, perhaps reflecting that the majority of their subscribers are from lower LSMs.

In Nigeria, My MTN is the self-service app winner but with a much lower percentage of 6.2% of all subscribers. Neither Glo nor 9Mobile have made much of an impression with their self-service apps. In Ghana MTN and Vodafone are the market winners for their self-service app but the percentage hovers around 5%. Airtel Tigo has always had a majority of subscribers from lower end demographics. Orange et Moi in Senegal fits the same pattern. Airtel in Tanzania has only attracted a very low percentage of its subscribers.

Table 1: Detailed snapshot / Table 2: Less detailed snapshot

On the basis of the data above, self-care apps are very much a work in progress outside of South Africa. It is also worth bearing in mind that the number of people who regularly use apps once they have downloaded them is often a much smaller percentage of the total downloads. African MNOs (and potentially their customers) have every incentive to digitalize their relationship with their customers.

In Brief

China's second biggest smartphone manufacturer launches in SA: The company has the largest smartphone market share in Egypt and in South East Asia, and it has seen 102% year-on-year growth in Western Europe. In a presentation on the launch of its smartphones in South Africa, Oppo said it has partnered with a number of major retailers to offers its mid-range A-series smartphones in the country.

Buy a 40% stake in EthioTelecom next month: Ethiopia's Ministry of Finance (MoF) has indicated that it will auction off stake in the country's monopoly telecoms provider, Ethio Telecom, next month. According to New Business Ethiopia, the timetable for the sale of the 40% shareholding in the telco was said to have been revealed at a consultation conducted between the MoF and interested parties regarding the bidding process, which was held as part of preparations for the divestment.

USTDA backs connectivity providers in Nigeria: It has committed funding for a feasibility study to help ipNX Nigeria Limited expand its fiberoptic network to more than 200,000 residences in Lagos and other locations, including Abuja and Port Harcourt. North Carolina-based CCG Consulting will perform the study. Plus it will also fund a study to help Aldreda Fields Ltd. develop aerially installed broadband networks to connect multiple neighborhoods across Lagos to broadband infrastructure. The study will be performed by New Jersey-based S2 Associates International LLC.

Paratus Zambia rolls out 100 Gig Metro fibre ring in Lusaka: It is a first for the company and it is pitching it partly as a way of businesses being able to access cloud services like Azure, AWS and Google.

Ugandan regulator UCC tells Airtel to upgrade to an NTO licence: Airtel is currently operating via Public Service Provider (PSP) and Public Infrastructure Provider (PIP) concessions issued for USD100,000 in November 2018, but under the Uganda Communications Commission's (UCC's) revised licensing structure, Airtel is covered by the National Telecom Operator (NTO) category, which applies to operators with more than 65% nationwide network coverage. Rival firms have complained that Airtel has benefitted from reduced licence fees for its PSP and PIP permits, when it should be paying the much higher NTO fee.


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