, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 6 – Local developers will soon be able to market their applications on Safaricom’s App store set to go live next month.
Safaricom Director of Corporate Affairs Nzioka Waita says the app store will give local developers the much needed exposure that they often lose out on when placed against international developers on app stores like the Ovi store.
“Majority of our customers use feature phones that don’t really have access to these app stores, so we’ll give them a Safaricom-centric app store and help them meet their marketing costs because every day we have over five million people going on to our web portal,” he said.
In a bid to give local developers even more recognition Safaricom and UK-based mobile operator Vodafone have launched a multi-country app challenge, dubbed AppStar.
Waita says the competition, which will take place in Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania, Egypt, Ghana and Qatar will help deepen local talent.
“The competition is designed at a two-tier level. The first is a local competition, giving developers until November 2 to develop and publish their apps. Then there’ll be a two-week evaluation period by a judge panel of industry leaders, academia and consumer test groups,” he said.
The top Kenyan developer will take home Sh1 million and go on to compete in South Africa with finalists from the other six countries for the grand prize.
Safaricom will spend over Sh2 million on the award scheme, while the competition will run from September 6 to November 21, featuring entries in six categories including Games/Entertainment, Health, Education, Agriculture, Financial Inclusion and Productivity.
Information Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo, who was present at the challenge launch, says the government took longer in supporting the nascent developer community due to lack of resources and incubation facilities to nurture upcoming talent.
“We are behind because we need a lot infrastructural things like the development of Konza City, where we could have incubation centres. Now you have operators showing support which gives local developers hope,” he said.
Safaricom announced a Sh20 million grant to iLabAfrica at Strathmore University in its first tranche of support to set up and run iLabAfrica, which plans to have an incubation facility as part of its activities.
“Next month we’ll be launching iLabAfrica which will be the most high-tech equipped laboratory probably on the continent. We’ll give a chance for technology to be developed and we’ll also get young developers to understand how to monetise and commercialise their talents,” Waita said.
iLabAfrica is research centre under the faculty of Information Technology at Strathmore University, established in January last year to spearhead research, innovation and entrepreneurship in ICT for development.