In discussions of super apps, a handful of Asian mobile apps like AliPay, Gojek, Grab, and WeChat are often cited as notable examples.
Meanwhile, a handful of American multinationals are also increasingly claiming super app status. PayPal, Facebook/WhatsApp and Uber have all diversified their functionalities in recent years and now offer a range of services under the umbrella of a single app.
Continue reading: The Super App Shift
When asked what an African super app would look like, Airtel Mobile Commerce (AMC) CEO Vimal Kumar Ambat made some insightful comments to PYMNTS.
He pointed out that while WeChat is seen by everyone as the ultimate super app, this model doesn’t have the same chance of success given the low smartphone penetration in Africa at the moment. He said: “A super app requires you to have a smartphone [and] You must be a content user.”
He added that even people who own smartphones often make payments with unstructured supplemental service data (USSD) by default.
See also: Central Bank Nods to Mobile Money Licenses; Airtel accelerates plans to IPO Mobile Money Unit
In fact, the preference for USSD mobile money wallets in many African countries could prevent many of the international big-tech super-apps from gaining a foothold on the continent unless they are better integrated into the mobile money ecosystem.
However, there are a number of native African applications with built-in USSD interoperability.
Related: 3 telco-driven apps to see in emerging markets in 2022
Africa’s native super apps
A list of these super apps could potentially include dozens of apps and services from different corners of the continent, but here PYMNTS takes a look at three contenders that have established themselves as multi-service apps on the continent.
M-Pesa by Safaricom
Building on its mobile wallet, Kenyan telecoms company Safaricom launched the super app M-Pesa in 2021.
The all-in-one app has an offline function that allows customers to use the M-Pesa service without data packages or to pay offline. Additionally, the super app has also integrated PayPal into the platform, allowing users to receive and initiate PayPal transactions from their M-Pesa wallet.
In addition, M-Pesa users can access a range of services such as ticket booking and bill payment from within the app thanks to “mini-apps” that allow third-party providers to integrate with the M-Pesa platform.
In relation to Kenya, Safaricom’s business practices were previously under scrutiny by the country’s competition regulator. However, as the company’s dominance in the telecommunications and mobile money space is increasingly challenged by new market entrants, its products are becoming more open-ended.
When PYMNTS spoke to Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa, he called the company “an enabling ecosystem” rather than a single-minded payments solution.
Continue reading: “Innovation mentality” crucial to the success of M-Pesa
For example, Safaricom has opened up the M-Pesa mobile money network to other operators, allowing customers of competing mobile operators such as Telkom Kenya and Airtel Kenya to pay for products and services through M-Pesa.
JumiaPay by Jumia
When pan-African e-commerce giant Jumia launched JumiaPay in 2017, it was hard not to speculate that the payment solution would follow the path charted by AliPay and PayPal to super app status.
Like these apps, JumiaPay also initially served a specific niche as a payment method for shoppers using Jumia’s e-commerce platform. However, in the years since its launch, it has expanded its range of payment services and now functions as a full-fledged digital wallet for online payments, as well as a mobile wallet and money transfer platform.
See also: JumiaPay transactions account for 34% of total orders in Q1 and are facing increased competition
In a sign that the payment solution is gaining traction, figures show that the percentage of payments on the Jumia website that are made using the JumiaPay app accounts for more than a third of all transactions.
Related: Jumia’s payments division now accounts for a third of marketplace revenue
At the same time, Jumia has also expanded the range of the super app. In April, the company announced the launch of an eHealth subscription service, giving Nigerian JumiaPay app users access to a licensed doctor through an integrated eDoctor service.
Squad of GTCO
An extension of GTCO’s HabariPay payment solution, Squad is an all-purpose solution that brings multiple financial technologies under one roof.
By combining a payment gateway, an e-commerce platform and a point-of-sale app that enables merchants to accept NFC contactless payments, GTCO positions Squad as a one-stop shop for all payment needs.
Continue reading: Nigeria’s GTCO shows ‘Super App’ ambitions with squad start
After all, there is room for a multitude of players in the African market. To date, global big-tech super-apps haven’t gained as much traction on the continent as they might have hoped, but that doesn’t mean they’ve given up.
For Africa’s native super-apps, including the three discussed here, various combinations and configurations that accommodate the idiosyncrasies of African markets – such as the higher preference for mobile money compared to other parts of the world – have proven key to their success.
Subscribe to the daily newspaper for all PYMNTS EMEA coverage EMEA Newsletter.