Interview: Opera Mini sees hyper growth in Africa

Sean D’Arcy, Director Partner Marketing and Management at Opera Software caught up with Sean D’Arcy, Director of Partner Marketing and Management at Opera Software and Alistair Hill, Managing Director at On Device Research, to find out just how popular Opera Mini browser is in Africa, and the latest trends in mobile web usage on the continent. How is Opera Mini positioned on the continent?

Sean D’Arcy: With 71 million users worldwide, we’re seeing hyper growth in Africa. South Africa, Opera’s sixth largest market worldwide and the highest user in Africa of Opera Mini, registered a 67% year-to-year growth in the number of users. In Nigeria, our ninth largest market, we saw an astonishing year-to-year growth of 110%. Kenya, Egypt and Ghana are other markets with similar growth rates. What are the latest trends in mobile web usage?

Sean D’Arcy: We conducted an extensive user survey in partnership with mobile internet survey company On Device Research. For many years, Opera Mini has been male-dominated. In the last two years, the growth in the number of Opera Mini female users reached 575%. Another trend we saw was a doubling of interest in sport during the 2010 World Cup, with 500,000 unique visitors of Opera’s Mini browser during that period.

Alistair Hill: We observed that Opera users are more inclined to engage in more social networking – a shift towards interactivity rather than just downloading and consuming. Also, people using Opera had similar behaviours irrespective of their location and were more willing to recommend the mobile browser to others. What are the top mobile destinations for Opera Mini users in Africa?

Sean D’Arcy: Facebook, Google and Yahoo are the top mobile browsing destinations on the continent. From a social networking perspective, 61% of Opera users frequently access Facebook from their mobile devices. A huge trend on the rise is mobile video content and YouTube is becoming more popular among Africans. Any new developments at Opera Software?

Sean D’Arcy: We have launched Opera Mini 5 in March this year, with a much improved interface, new features and multi-tasking capabilities. The browser offers a smartphone-like experience with the possibility of adding tabs. We are working with African partners like Vodacom South Africa and Vodacom Tanzania to bring the browser on some of their feature phones. They can also offer customized versions of Opera Mini with widgets and applications brought by the operators themselves through our browser. What is Opera’s strategy for next year on the continent? Is the availability of smartphones in Africa a challenge for Opera?

Sean D’Arcy: We are considering two main marketing channels: through social media and through more partnerships with local mobile operators. From Opera’s perspective, Africans need to access mobile Internet in a meaningful way. Opera Mini can be easily used with a regular feature phone through any type of network, including 2G, 3G and 4G. This is a strong point as users don’t have to worry about the network they use when browsing.

By Denisa Oosthuizen