Weekly digest for 22 Oct 2021


The main story this week is from South Africa, where the messaging app Moya is generating lots of interest. It has 3.2 million active monthly users. That’s still pretty small compared to WhatsApp, which has around 25 million active users per month in South Africa. But Moya is growing fast and it has a key selling point: text messages are free even if the users data balance is empty. Moya uses reverse billing technology so that customers don’t face a charge. Of course, there are caveats: images and video’s don’t qualify for free data. The immediate question is how Moya makes money. It has an advertising business model and gives businesses access to users, though on an opt-in basis. Aside from advertising, Moya has added a payment gateway called MoyaPayD that uses QR codes for payment. Inspired by WeChat, the idea is to be a single app for nearly everything. The first 5 transactions per day are free and then a 1% transaction charge is levied. It’s an appealing model because it targets the bottom-end of the market – those that cannot afford data or run out of data regularly. But it is also not clear if the advertising model is sustainable or whether Moya needs to make that leap from the lower end of the market to all segments, including those people that own iPhones (Moya is only available on Android at the moment).

Other weekly news from around Africa

  • Google has cut its Play store commission to 15%. Its competitors, such as Apple, continue to charge 30%.
  • Eswatini: mobile operators have been instructed to turn off social media sites (specifically Facebook and Facebook Messenger) by the government as protests against the monarchy increase.
  • Ghana: the regulator has allowed the use of temporary spectrum by MNOs to continue, even though the deadline for returning the spectrum has passed. This is common-sense approach is something the South African regulator should consider.
  • Tanzania: Vodacom Tanzania has reported its annual results for the period ended March 2021. Revenues were down by 5.7% due to loss of 2.9 million subscribers due to biometric SIM card registration requirements. Only 84% of Tanzanians have access to a national identity document, making universal SIM card registration impossible.