Why APIs may be the Key to Kenya's Economic Development?

Eric Carter, Founder & Corporate Counsel, Dartsand
Apr. 15 2014, 12:12PM EDT

Kenya currently lays claim to the world's largest user base of mobile money. With over 25 million mobile money users in the country, Kenya seems to be a mobile developer's dream when it comes to potential user base. However, as COSEKE's Kevin Njoki told ITWeb Africa, developers face major roadblocks in monetizing apps despite the massive mobile money user base. At the heart of the difficulty lies a lack of open APIs from the country's leading telecommunication companies.

Njoki explained:

“Even with mobile money, it is still hard to integrate all the different platforms out there, since most telcos are yet to open up their systems via an application programming interface (API) to allow us assimilate them in our apps.”

The use of personal bank accounts with traditional financial institutions remains low in Kenya's developing economy. However, the large network of mobile users and the ease of mobile money within Kenya's borders have led to a massive mobile money network. Around 25% of Kenya's GNP flows through mobile money. Njoki believes mobile money's success should be leading to greater economic expansion. He suggests:

“We have seen the airtime model work perfectly in selling of ringtones and other media that work even on feature phones. I think it is time we also applied the same model when it comes to apps, and I can assure you, Kenya will witness an exponential growth in the number of quality apps being created out there, something that could catapult us in achieving our ‘Silicon Savannah dream’.”

The mobile base in Kenya is enormous. Further, Kenyans have shown themselves readily willing to move money with mobile devices. Lack of an API strategy at the network level has put the brakes on a potentially enormous market for app developers. Many cities across the world are itching to become the next Silicon Valley. However, with an existing customer base eager to spend money in a market that is underdeveloped, the Silicon Savannah might be a few APIs away from reality.

Eric Carter Eric is the founder of Dartsand and Corporate Counsel for a specialty technology distributor. He is a frequent contributor to technology media outlets and also serves as primary legal counsel for multiple startups in the Real Estate, Virtual Assistant, and Software Development Industries. Follow me on Google+

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