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Interview: No better time to join the African digital race

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Interview: No better time to join the African digital race
Hendri Lategan, CEO of Swipe Interactive.

IT News Africa recently spoke to Hendri Lategan, CEO of Swipe Interactive, in an interview which looks to unpack how mobile apps are changing the face of business on the African continent.

Swipe Interactive is a specialist digital solutions agency that delivers custom built digital products for startups and SMBs to large corporates across the globe. The company started in 2014 and since then has amassed a client roster of some of the biggest names in tech and media in the country. WeChat, DStv, Discovery Networks UK, to name a few.

Lategan was appointed CEO of Swipe back in August 2016, before then he was the founder and CEO of Barbarossa Media and worked in various senior positions looking to help companies on their digital journey.

We spoke to Hendri about how important it is for businesses to have a mobile app/platform, what the benefits are, how companies who don’t leverage this tech will fall behind, the biggest trends in the industry, and how businesses can choose the perfect app.

1) With the rapid growth of mobile usage in Africa, how important is it for companies to have a mobile app?
Mobile isn’t the future in Africa; it is the here and now. In two of the continent’s biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, mobile makes up about 80% of web traffic – far above the world average of 50%, according to the 2017 Global Digital Overview. It is business critical that companies have mobile as their primary digital channel to their African customers. But that doesn’t necessarily mean having an app. In fact, building a mobile optimised web presence should be your first port of call. Only when you are able to find a way to add an additional dimension to your business through the power of an app should you consider going this route.

2) What are some of the benefits for businesses to have a mobile app?
An app can be a powerful way to manage customer engagement with the business and drive revenue through creating powerful tools and experiences that add true value to their lives. Unlike traditional business models, apps are scalable and the embodiment of the one to many model. Instagram still only employs a team of 13 people. And finally, an app gives you unprecedented access to anybody with a phone in their pocket no matter where they are. People can engage with your app while summiting a mountain peak, surfing in Bali or lying out under the stars.

3) In Africa, will businesses who fail to leverage this technology fall behind?
It has already begun to happen. Uber has unsettled the metered taxi industry in several countries around the world – not just in Africa. Airbnb has done the same to hotels. Mobile technologies have been a critical part of this. And it was all fairly predictable. But technology hubs in Kenya and Cape Town have shown that Africa has the drive and raw talent to deliver impactful digital solutions that are problems only they can solve. With technology, everything is always in a state of flux. If you haven’t gotten into the digital race yet, there is no better time to start than now.

4) What are some of the biggest trends in the industry?
The biggest trend is to develop for mobile first. Like I said, mobile is how the vast majority of Africans access the internet. There was a time when mobile traffic was relegated to mobi sites, which have limited functionality. But smartphones and tablets are becoming cheaper, and their penetration continues to grow rapidly. So mobile apps and mobile-responsive sites are probably the way most companies should go when developing digital products.

5) How do businesses choose the perfect app for them?
By understanding what their users need and how they can best provide value to them. Whether your users are your employees, your customers or even your investors. Every business has a unique set of challenges. The solution to these challenges will be equally unique. Don’t blindly copy something just because it’s worked for somebody else. Think about what you can do differently and do it better than anybody else.

6) How would you describe the current climate of the mobile apps industry?
We are living in exciting times. There is so much potential for anyone with the right vision and approach to create mobile products and platforms that have global impact. It doesn’t have to be a start-up. Even big, long-established businesses have the potential to be industry disruptors, if they are curious and forward-thinking enough to partner with technologists that have the skills and expertise to develop nextgen digital solutions.

By Dean Workman
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