That’s “good morning” in Tsonga
In their early days, Chinese internet startups were often viewed as Silicon Valley analogues, Meituan was described as the Groupon of China, Weibo as the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, and so on.
But somewhere around 2014/15, Chinese companies started to outgrow these parallels.
The birth of the super app
China’s online-to-offline (O2O) revolution is largely credited with bringing about this change.
O2O empowers consumers to use digital interfaces to pay for non-digital goods; it blends the digital and physical worlds together.
In China, the revolution was driven by three key factors:
Mobile-first internet users with access to cheap smartphones,
Mobile payments enabled by the proliferation of QR codes,
- And the rise of the incomparable super apps.
A super app is an umbrella of apps that offers the user a single interface, it’s been likened to a digital Swiss army knife.
The term was coined by Blackberry founder Mike Lazaridis, but it was in China that the concept truly came to life.
Parallels in Africa
Africa’s O2O revolution is missing true super apps, and two China-backed companies, OPay and WeChat, have been tipped to lead the way in building one.
Unfortunately, both companies have suffered recent setbacks.
in Lagos and coronavirus lockdowns have impaled OPay, while WeChat’s issues have been arguably self-inflicted
Consequently, OPay has announced the suspension of its non-fintech verticals to focus on mobile payments and e-commerce, while, in South Africa, WeChat is doing away with its wallets feature.
But reports of their deaths are greatly exaggerated.
OPay maintains a commanding lead
in mobile payments in Nigeria and Tencent, WeChat’s parent company, is intrinsically tied to the continent via Naspers.
If Africa is to experience an O2O revolution on the scale of China’s, both companies are still in position to play their part.