Digital trends in Africa: interview with mobile social network Eskimi
Internet in Africa is growing at a fast pace, and mobile is playing a key role, as 3 out of 4 Internet users in Africa use a phone to connect. In most cases this doesn’t happen via smartphones, yet through feature phones, due to always more competitive data plans, from Nigeria to Zimbabwe.
As Indra De Lanerolle told us during a recent interview, “the World Wide Web in Africa is reaching people that never read newspapers or watch TV”, which means that the Internet’s impact in many African countries is something truly unprecedented.
Many local mobile-based platforms have been flourishing over the last 5 years in the sub-saharan area, such as Mpesa and Mxit. Among them, today we can count Eskimi: originally born in Lithuania, it now boasts some millions of users across countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya.
We had a talk with Eskimi’s founder and CEO Vytautas Paukštys, to understand why the social network is so successful in Africa, and what are the main mobile-related trends from the area.
– Hi Vytautas; first of all, how was Eskimi born, and what are the main features?
Eskimi was born in Lithuania, and the company was established in 2006. We were working on the mobile web products for Eastern Europe. We then decided that we want to invest into worldwide product, and launched Eskimi as a chat product worldwide.
African and South East Asian markets started growing, and we decided to focus on a few markets in Africa. In 3 years the product grew to 16 million users, and our main markets are in Africa.
Currently Eskimi is a mobile social network to meet new people and play. Users spend half of the time chatting, but we have grown other categories of the product. One of them is fanclubs, our microblogging or community feature inside Eskimi. We have more than 100,000 microblogs created by users already, where they chat on different topics from sports, football to fashion or automotive. We have also localized content areas for Music, Jobs, Movies and other categories.
– What are the countries where it’s used the most now?
Our largest markets are Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia. Africa as a continent is the most important market.
– What are in your opinion Eskimi’s main competitors, at the local and global level?
We are competing with all internet products on time user spends and we’ve seen increased competition during the last 2 years. Facebook is the main competitor for users’ time per day, but not direct competition in terms of the user needs we are catering for (Eskimi has Facebook page with over 300 thousand fans, mainly communicating with the African target, editor’s note).
– Why did Eskimi became so successful in Sub-saharan Africa?
I think it was a combination of good timing and technology. When we launched the product, it worked on all simple, small data enabled devices such as feature phones. Also, 3 years ago there was very little competition in the space and smartphones were not there yet.
I think a lot of niche players will grow offering quality content for their topics. Also, increased usage of smartphones will bring worldwide products to the phones of users in Africa. Up until now they were mostly using local products.
– Thanks Vytautas!