MTN Also Launched Their Version Of Sasai Last Year: Why Do These Apps Exist?

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Telecoms companies seem to be unable to resist a trend. When they decide that they should start investing in media – a number of them do so (e.g Kwese and Cell C) without investing in the talent or knowledge to actually make viable products.

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Outside of VoD services, it seems network operators latest fixation is with building a messaging application for some reason. Locally, we saw Econet/Cassava Smartech launch Sasai last year, and before that Safaricom did the same thing.

Unbeknownst to me was the fact that MTN also launched their own version of a messaging application shortly after the launch of Sasai. Unlike Sasai and Zwuup which attempt to leverage EcoCash’s and Safaricom’s dominance in their respective mobile money markets, Ayoba doesn’t integrate any payments into the application (though it will at a later date). This begs the questions why does this even exist?

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But with 1 million+ installs on the Playstore and 4.2-star rating from 9.169 reviews the application must be doing something good – or at least that’s what I assumed.

First impressions count for everything and Ayoba didn’t make a great first impression with me for 2 reasons:

  1. The application isn’t available on iOS. I don’t use iOS but I have many contacts who are dear to me who do and if they can’t use the chat application it’s less useful to me
  2. The name itself is reused from a marketing campaign which ran during the 2010 World Cup. I’m not sure if this was intended to reignite some nostalgia but it seems unoriginal to me. Anyway, this is more subjective and to each his own…

Whilst the app comes with the useful channels feature from Telegram, like Sasai the application was launched in beta (and appears to still with the current version at 0.27.0) and as a result, many users couldn’t get past the verification stage whilst the app chowed it. The headline feature – mobile payments – is also currently missing from this version of the app.

One of the most baffling decisions is the fact that voice calls made using the app don’t rely on data but actually use airtime. What??

From scrolling in the app for a few minutes it’s hard to see why anyone would pick this over WhatsApp and this brings me to the biggest question. Why are MNOs making these apps? Are they pursuing the success of WeChat in China? If the answer to that is yes, the second question I would then ask is why they are releasing these half-baked apps onto the market and ensuring that we use the application once and never open it again?


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Published by
Farai Mudzingwa

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