The Evolution of Mobile App Development in East Africa

In 1997, the Nokia 6110 included a built-in version of the basic arcade game ”Snake,” which many consider the first mobile app. The first iPod would also come with built-in games. Back in 1983, however, Steve Jobs first envisioned the app store … or at least the basic version of it. 

Shortly after Apple’s introduction of the iPod, the iTunes store launched on January 9, 2001, acting as a precursor to the Apple App Store.  App store was the most innovative apps that developers have dreamed up, to the way customers have made apps. It was later launched on July 10, 2008.

In 2007, M-pesa was the first mobile app that was created in East Africa. It is the largest mobile network operator in Kenya. It has been able to expand to Tanzania, Mozambique, Lesotho, DRC etc. M-pesa allows users to deposit and withdraw transfer and pay goods. Mpesa has grown in terms of money transfers like bankless banking services from a network of agents. M-pesa has spread quickly and by 2010 has become the most successful app. 

Since the introduction of Mpesa as the first app developed in East Africa, mobile apps have evolved and people have been able to build companies that will be able to help people develop mobile apps for their company.

The introduction of smartphones was a big turning point in the evolution of mobile app development. In East Africa, mobile apps have become fast-growing and it has enabled companies to grow. People have developed apps whereby people that allow people to interact with patients and give them feedback on their conditions like NetDoc. 

Several tech hubs have emerged in major cities like Nairobi, Kigali, and Addis Ababa. They have been able to build up institutions that provide supportive startups and app developers, offering mentorship and networking opportunities.   

Mobile apps have been targeting agriculture and that has enabled farmers with tools for crop management, and weather forecasting. E-commerce platforms like Jumia and Kilimall have gained popularity and make it easier for businesses to reach customers from each part of the county.

In the education center, the apps have played a crucial role in improving access to education in every region. EdTech platforms offer e-learning solutions, virtual classrooms, and digital content to students and learners of all ages. In the transport center, apps like Bolt and Uber have expanded their presence in East Africa. Safeboda and Swvl have also expanded in Uganda and Egypt.

As technology keeps advancing, AI and the Internet of Things are becoming more common. These technologies have been used in agriculture and healthcare. Some East African app developers have expanded their services to neighboring countries with apps like Fintech. 

Despite the growth of mobile app development, there are challenges such as infrastructure limitations, funding gaps, and market competition. However, these challenges have propelled innovation and resilience within the mobile app industry.

The mobile app has evolved from SMS services to a thriving ecosystem of innovative apps that address a wide range of needs. As technology continues to advance, the tech ecosystem matures.

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GraphTechnologies is a mobile development agency specializing in high-quality app creation for clients worldwide.

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