Vodacom Group has announced that it will be launching a super-app in South Africa through Vodacom Financial Services. The super-app, according to a statement by the South African telecommunications company, will be developed in partnership with China's Alipay as a technology partner.

The idea behind a super-app, quite popular in China if you look at WeChat as an example, is that one app will aggregate several services on it making it convenient as a single app for users to access most of the services they use regularly. Added to that, with some super-apps, third-party developers can develop their apps that can be made available through the super-app.

Vodacom's super-app won't be any different based on their announcement. The app will allow South African consumers to shop online, pay bills, and do money transfers all from their smartphones. Added to that, it will offer bank accounts, streaming music, playing games and watching videos, e-news, ride-hailing, and (as they like saying in infomercials) much more.

However, we've been here before. Not in South Africa specifically but in Nigeria.

In 2017 Jumia's plans to launch a super-app were leaked to iAfrikan. The company would go on to launch their Jumia ONE super-app in 2018 for Nigerian consumers. Like Vodacom's pending super-app in South Africa, it offered a myriad of services. Eventually, Jumia ONE wasn't gaining the traction the company was hoping for but the payment functionality was proving profitable. As such, the e-commerce company scaled it down and renamed it Jumia Pay.

Between 2018 and 2020, something similar happened with Chinese-owned Opera with their OPay super-app, albeit on a much larger scale. Opera decided to launch its OPay mobile money platform in Nigeria. A year later, the company announced its entry into other verticals including Oride, its bike-hailing platform; Ofood- its on-demand food delivery platform; Ocar- its cab-hailing platform and Oexpress- its logistics platform.

This super-app, like Jumia's, has since been scaled back to a payment functionality while all other functionalities have been officially shut down.

When you take the example of WeChat as a super-app, you realize there's a certain path that a super-app with critical mass and traction has followed. I also suspect, in hindsight, Jumia and OPay have learned this lesson that Vodacom is yet to learn (or perhaps they will lucky enough to get critical mass without this approach): the lesson is that before they become super-app, they had a core functionality that kept users coming back. In the case of WeChat, it was the messaging/chat functionality.

In the case of Jumia and Opay, I suspect it is the payment functionality.

Following from this core functionality, the super-app then adds other adjacent services for the user's convenience. Unfortunately, I think Vodacom is going at it upside-down unless they believe they have it all figured out.

It's not only WeChat, but look at what Facebook is successfully doing with WhatsApp (payments, business functionality, etc), Instagram, Messenger, and even the Facebook platform itself i.e. adding adjacent services to core functionality.

Given that Vodacom has previously on several occasions failed to gain traction and critical mass after launching and re-launching M-PESA in South Africa, I can't help shake the thought that this is another case of "Copy & Paste" without considering context and other factors.

But, let's wait and see.

WhatsApp is changing agri-business in Cameroon

Like most parts of Africa, WhatsApp is arguably the most used messaging and social media platform in Cameroon given that more than half of citizens of the central African nation own a smartphone, according to studies by a French outfit. What we are seeing is that there can be much more to just a messaging application like WhatsApp. In Cameroon, participants in the agriculture sector are using it to boost their agriculture-related activities and grow their income.

Vodacom is launching a super app in South Africa powered by China's Alipay

Vodacom is taking a chance at FinTech one more time after several failed attempts of trying to make M-PESA work in South Africa. This time, they are partnering with China's Alipay to offer a super-app which will offer consumers and businesses much more than just payments. Will it work? Will they reach critical mass this time?

The challenges of developing COVID-19 contact-tracing apps

Citizens’ fear of tracking by authorities or company managers may even be greater than the fear of tracking by Google and Apple for marketing purposes. Are you ready to start sharing your personal information with an app developed by Google and Apple?

The ins and outs of insurance

One of the best financial decisions you can make is applying for insurance. The most obvious benefit of being insured is being indemnified for loss or damage. But there are other benefits.

Twitter hack exposes a broader threat to democracy

Twitter mediates so much in the public sphere that weak points at the company are weak points in society. Outsiders were able to take over Twitter accounts of high-profile individuals by β€˜social engineering,’ which allowed them to convince Twitter employees to provide access to its systems.

Quote of the day

The idea of a super-app is great, however, it sounds like most companies looking to launching a super-app anywhere in Africa are merely doing a "Copy & Paste" without looking at whether an approach that worked somewhere else will work in a specific African country. (Tweet this)

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