There are now more than 4 million people in Kenya with smartphones, and increasingly, access to mobile apps is becoming a central issue in how these users engage with their devices. According to a December study of Kenyans in urban areas by research firm SOKO insight, 85% of respondents have at least 5 apps on their phones. But while 30% of respondents say app availability is one of the more important features of their mobile devices, a significant number aren’t fans of local platforms.
Overall, poll respondents ranked local apps “average” in terms of content, quality and price. And for developers, this figure should be alarming: 43% of users didn’t know any locally-made apps, the study found.
Preference for apps made outside of Kenya undermines the expectation that the country’s fast growth in mobile users will be a boon for the local economy. Kenyan developed platforms such as Ma3route, the traffic news dissemination app, and the mobile game Ma3racer, have achieved some success but overall Kenyan developers struggle, analysts argue, because a significant chunk of the apps they produce are imitations of others. Consequently, not enough content is being created that resonates widely with the country’s growing mobile audience.
The same survey found that Google Play Store is the shopping platform of choice for urban Kenyan app users, unsurprising considering how dominant Android-powered phones are on the continent.
A majority of users use their devices for calls or browsing the internet, with Facebook the most popular app for most people. And when it comes to which apps people are willing to buy, users seemed to prioritize functional tools such as banking, transport and health related platforms, SOKO’s survey found.