INTERVIEW: Enabling digital transformation in Africa

Africa is not immune to the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s (4IR) potential to disrupt through digital technology. For this reason, there’s an intensifying need to ensure that the continent capitalises on opportunities that can empower it’s people, bring down the cost of digital tools and invest in local businesses.

Richard Monday, VP or Opera Africa.

IT News Africa’s Jenna Cook had the opportunity to chat with Richard Monday, VP of Opera Africa, about the importance of actively playing a role in breaking down the barriers to Africa’s digital connectivity, promoting inclusive growth throughout its markets on the continent and connecting people and businesses to a digital platform of tools and opportunities. Here’s what transpired:

How can Africans ensure that the continent capitalises on opportunities that are being ushered in by 4IR, to not only mitigate the risk of being left behind but to also connect people, bring down the cost of digital tools and invest in local businesses?

Firstly, the cost to communicate, which is a barrier to entry for many of the continent’s citizens and industries, needs to be broken down. By achieving this, we can enable the African continent to embrace the digital opportunities that stem from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Opera has also been actively playing a role in breaking down the barriers to Africa’s digital connectivity by promoting inclusive growth throughout its markets on the continent, enabling digital financial inclusion with mobile payment solutions like OPay, and by connecting people and businesses through new and innovative digital platforms such as Opera Ads, OLeads and the popular Opera mobile browsers.

Through initiatives such as these, we can enable digital transformation throughout the African continent.

What are some of the barriers facing the African continent with regards to the adoption of digital connectivity?

The high price of mobile data remains a challenge for millions of people across Africa and limits their ability to access the internet and in turn, the opportunities housed in the digital space, such as job portals, educational material etc. For this reason, the team at Opera, which has over 20 years’ experience developing fast and secure browsers, developed Opera Mini, which is a fast and lightweight browser that uses minimal data usage, and offers a built-in ad blocker and data compression technology, and allows online and offline file sharing.

The data compression mode in Opera Mini has the capability to pre-process and reduce the amount of data from a website before it reaches users’ phones. This gives them faster navigation, increased browsing speed and prolongs the lifespan of pricey data plans. The Opera Mini browser is a popular choice across the African continent due to its speed and its unique technology, which can save a person up to 90% in mobile data.

In South Africa for instance, people pay roughly $7.19 (around R106) for one gigabyte of mobile data, which is 28 times more expensive than India. In Q1-2019, the Opera Mini user base in South Africa saved more than $3 million (or around R44 million) on mobile data. This means that people who choose Opera Mini in South Africa, spend significantly less money on data plans and can browse nine-times longer than when they use browsers without data compression technology.

Are there any industries that can afford to go digital and how is Opera making this a possibility?

There are millions of businesses across Africa, operating in a range of industries, but the one major challenge these businesses are faced with is leveraging digital information to scale a business, as they still operate offline. With the aim of addressing this challenge, Opera has moved beyond the development of browsers and has expanded its product portfolio by introducing new online marketing platforms like Opera Ads which help businesses in different industries maximise their online visibility, increase their sales, and find their target audiences with premium ad placement across a range of products that are used by an international user base of 350 million users worldwide.

Opera Ads has been designed to be the platform-of-choice for advertisers who seek the opportunity to reach a scaled and engaged audience in a highly transparent fashion across the fastest growing mobile digital markets. The online marketing platform offers an intelligent advertising solution to digital agencies, publishers and brands to connect and engage with the Opera audiences with geo-targeting capabilities.

Last week,  Opera announced the introduction of new ad units in Opera Ads. The new ad units are seamlessly integrated with apps and smartphone functionalities, removing the number of clicks needed and improving the experience of both the advertiser and the user. This means that people no longer need to remember phone numbers or copy and paste the email addresses or annoying codes to get the information or service they need.

These ad units are automatically integrated with popular services such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and allow interaction through formats like USSD, SMS messaging and phone calls.

By introducing online marketing platforms like Opera Ads and OLeads, the company is taking the next step towards its strategy to transform the digital advertising ecosystem in Africa. By removing barriers for local businesses to access the web and connect with the fast-growing internet population across the continent, Opera can help them increase sales and revenue for their business.

What do you think the development and role of fintech’s are across Africa?

Opera believes that online financial services are rapidly growing and quickly being adopted by thousands of people every day. With the development of online mobile payment services like OPay, we are empowering the unbanked population in Nigeria with free, safe and easy to use mobile applications that allow them to make peer-to-peer transactions and pay for everyday services like water and electricity or TV services.

After one year in the Nigerian market, OPay has already expanded its digital ecosystem by adding online vertical services like motorbike transportation through ORide, and food & groceries delivery through OFood. The inclusion of new verticals has facilitated the digital life of thousands of users in Nigeria who are benefitting from the use of these services.

Today, OPay is one of the fastest-growing companies in Africa and reported the expansion of its agent-centric network to 140 thousand agents across Nigeria in November 2019. Additionally, OPay handles daily transaction volumes of $10 million and has generated roughly five thousand jobs across Nigeria.

Last week,  OPay announced that the company raised funding of $120 million, which the company plans to use to accelerate its expansion across multiple verticals and expand the presence and visibility of the brand across the African continent. Opera believes that with online financial services like OPay, we can offer people in other countries better and improved digital financial services.

How is Opera making digital inclusion a priority?

In 2017, Opera announced an investment of $100M USD in the African region to facilitate the growth of the continent’s digital economy. Today, we have launched a range of online marketing platforms like Opera Ads and OLeads, which allow businesses in any industry to advertise online or set up their online website in minutes and start generating leads to their business. In this way, we can enable the empowerment of SMEs and entrepreneurs across Africa, to scale and ramp up their businesses through sales.

We have also announced the launch of Opera News Hub in Nigeria, a new online media platform that allows authors, bloggers and content creators to create and distribute their original content across the Opera products. With Opera News Hub, we are providing African-based content creators with room to express their creativity, generate revenue and tell their local stories to an international audience.

With OPay, we are prioritising the financial inclusion of the unbanked population in Nigeria with free online mobile payments solutions that are making people’s lives easier through digital solutions. We look forward to expanding these services to more African countries and give people new ways of interacting with financial services.

Finally, with our mobile browsers, like Opera Mini, we are giving people the opportunity to save more of their mobile data and browse the web for nine times longer. We are also empowering them with new features like offline file sharing so they can save more of their data and use those megabytes to continue browsing online and connecting to the things that matter the most for them.

We believe that we are on our way to paving the way for digital transformation across the African continent, with more than 120 million Opera Browser users in the continent, as well as the continued expansion of our fintech initiatives across different countries.

By Jenna Delport

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