Local language tool ShonaApp registers over 10,000 downloads, growth powered by WhatsApp distribution

WhatsApp Documents

Earlier this year we wrote about ShonaApp, an Android application designed to help anyone trying to learn one of Zimbabwe’s local languages, Shona.

We recently caught up with Russell Kanyera, the developer of ShonaApp who shared some information on the app’s updates that include added revision questions for Grade 7 and Ordinary Level, exam tips, Ordinary Level grammar tips as well as Ordinary and Advanced Level November exam dates for Zimsec.

Kanyera was also excited about the traction the app has managed to gain in the past 4 months which has also translated into the first bit of revenue for the application which is still essentially in its early stages.


According to Kanyera, ShonaApp has so far registered over 10,000 downloads. This uptake has been enabled by some changes made to the app that include adding backwards compatibility to Android 2.2 devices and extending distribution platforms.

ShonaApp was previously available for download on its official website but has since been added to Google Play.

This hasn’t recorded a flood of downloads yet, but according to Kanyera, it is expected to help with the automatic provision of updates to the app that users have had to periodically check for on the site.

A more “relevant” distribution model of the app has been via WhatsApp. Interested users can request to have the installation file sent to them via WhatsApp from the number listed on the site or on the app’s Google Play info section.

This app installation kit is essentially a renamed apk which a user can then download, access from their WhatsApp documents folder rename the file extension to ShonaApp1.2.0.apk and then install it.

This version, just like the Google Play version has some basic key features but to access ShonaApp’s full functionality users still need to pay the $1 (via EcoCash) to get it activated.

The WhatsApp workaround helps overcome the challenge of data costs associated with application download and installation something that is a major determinant of what gets snapped up or ignored by users without access to the site or unable to download it on Google Play.

As long as data is still prices and internet user rely on bundles services like WhatsApp to shape their internet access experience such workarounds will be worth exploring for developers ltrying to push a mass market service like ShonaApp.

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8 thoughts on “Local language tool ShonaApp registers over 10,000 downloads, growth powered by WhatsApp distribution

  1. Well done mate, I happy to see that you are making progress hey. We should meet up and exchange notes and see how best we can help each other grow.

    1. They only added the app to Google Play recently. Previous downloads were handled through their site and via WhatsApp.

  2. He sent an apk via WhatsApp, backward compatibility to 2.2. That’s freaking genius! That’s what we call growth hacking. He’s a prodigy and is going places.

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