In an interesting announcement towards the end of February 2018, Truecaller has decided to set up their head office for Sub-Saharan Afrika in Nairobi, Kenya. Along with this, the caller ID and call-blocking app have announced that Zakaria Hersi will be the company's new Director of Partnerships for Afrika.
Before joining Truecaller, Hersi was, among other roles, the Managing Director of Nigeria's Efritin.com - a classifieds website servicing the Nigerian market which was shut down as a result of mismanagement of funds and high data costs as reported at the time. He was also responsible for launching Swedish investment firm Kinnevik's Saltside in Nigeria (shareholders in Efritin.com).
What is peculiar about the selection of Kenya, at least to me, as the headquarters for Truecaller is that the East Afrikan country is nowhere near being the largest market for the spam and caller-id company. According to a report released by Truecaller in 2017, South Africa recorded the fifth most spam calls globally as reported by Truecaller at 15,8 million, with Nigeria recording 10,4 million, Egypt 9,9 million, with Kenya just slotting in at number 20 globally by recording 7,7 million spam calls.
The top 20 countries affected by spam calls in 2017. | Truecaller
Why then would Truecaller select a market that looks like it is half the size of South Africa for their headquarters based on what their data alludes?
The answer, possibly (not conclusively), might lie in the difference in data protection and privacy laws in Kenya and South Africa. Although, based on Hersi's remarks, the decision was purely based on Kenya's usage numbers, which co-incidentally, Truecaller doesn't publish.
"Over the years, Kenya has consistently been a top market for us, with some of our highest usage globally, which is why it made sense for us to setup strategic headquarters in Nairobi," said Hersi.
Using Truecaller's own report on 2017 spam calls, it is clear that there is high usage by far in South Africa than in Kenya, in fact, more than double, making the decision and the reasons given by Truecaller even more curious.
In its current form, the Truecaller platform, app and processes flout some of South Africa's current data protection and privacy laws as well as the yet-to-be-fully-implemented Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) in South Africa. These laws, should someone (e.g. a person whose details are listed on Truecaller without their knowledge, permission or being notified) lay a case against the company, could see Truecaller being fined millions of dollars in some specific cases should they be found guilty in South Africa, such stringent measures don't yet exist in Kenya.