South Africa’s app economy has grown tenfold in the past two years and is expected to grow further due to rapid internet penetration and an increase in the number of users using mobile devices.

This was revealed at the recent App Growth and Marketing Insights Summit, hosted by peer-to-peer file sharing app SHAREit in partnership with digital media company PerformDM.

When millions of South Africans used online channels for entertainment, education, remote work and more during the COVID-19 pandemic, it greatly increased the local app economy, leading to a significant shift to a mobile approach to everyday life.

From the pre-pandemic period to the lifting of the lockdown in South Africa, the number of Internet users increased by more than 10% to approximately 40.8 million Internet users in South Africa.

In an interview with ITWeb on the sidelines of the summit, Arunabh Madhur, regional vice president and business head of SHAREit EMEA, noted that SA’s growing app consumption is fueling the development of local app developer ecosystems, enabling new business models.

“The app economy in South Africa has grown 10x since the onset of COVID-19, or perhaps even more in some industries. Today, the Android Play Store in South Africa has around 5,000 locally developed apps.

“The five big verticals driving the app economy in South Africa are e-commerce, OTT/entertainment, fintech, gaming and delivery services – all of which have captured and grown the app economy over the past two years,” said Madhur.

Arunabh Madhur, Regional Vice President and Business Head, SHAREit EMEA.

Arunabh Madhur, Regional Vice President and Business Head, SHAREit EMEA.

According to a report by AppsFlyer, sub-Saharan Africa saw impressive growth in the app economy in 2021, with downloads in Nigeria up 160%, Kenya up 100% and South Africa up 52%. % on Android and 32% on iOS in 2021.

Madhur noted that SA’s app economy is largely showing growth trends similar to those of other emerging economies such as Russia, Mexico and the MENA region, among others, catalyzed by leaps and bounds as more consumers in these markets find value in digital services. .

Between 20 and 22 million people in SA used smartphones in July, according to Statista, which is about one-third of the country’s population. However, the total number of mobile connections is much higher at over 90 million as mobile phones are still widely used in the country, the report said.

SHAREit, a gaming and content streaming platform, says it has experienced tremendous growth in the South African market, with more than a million mobile apps being distributed in South Africa every day using the SHAREit app.

“From an advertiser’s perspective, there is a lot of interest from local organizations who want to develop their brands and develop an application to retain and engage customers,” Shanelle Hardman, SHAREit’s Africa director, told ITWeb at the summit.

“The other part is that we’ve seen a lot of users showing interest in a whole range of apps as a result of high mobile connectivity, particularly in SA. There is a lot of curiosity from a consumer perspective, and games and entertainment are a big contributor to the local app economy. This is in addition to popular communication and messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, which are quite big locally.”

Chanel Hardman, SHAREit Africa Director.

Chanel Hardman, SHAREit Africa Director.

According to Hardman, while falling data costs have been a significant factor driving SA’s app economy over the past two to three years, many internet services have actually increased their fees amid the high cost of living.

“Thus, increasing the application fee adds to the already high cost of living in South Africa. But consumers still find value in apps because the time and money spent, for example, on a trip to the store has now been saved by using online services and offers. That’s why the overall app economy continues to grow massively.”

While local app developers and publishers are enjoying growing support from local residents, many issues still plague the ecosystem, including a lack of funding, security concerns, and the need to prove they’re worthy of the same trust as more major global brands, she continued.

“We have a country with a lot of talent and software developers are creating innovative solutions. But the app economy is still a learning curve for most people. App development in SA is still high.

“Security is another challenge for many apps – the internet has its fair share of risks that app developers have to overcome on a daily basis. Digital literacy is also something developers and app companies should focus on to teach users how to use their apps better and give them the basic skills to find convenience with apps.”

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