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Solve Africa using an App5 min read

Building an app or making any software has been mystified and convoluted to this great achievement that only a select few can do. However, I got a chance to speak to Agahozo Shalom Youth Village ( ASYV) kids who were passionate about using apps to solve issues faced in daily life. I put an presentation to demystify the process and show that anyone can build and app and make a business around it as well.

ASYV is an innovative youth village in eastern Rwanda, they take in orphans from all over the country, give them homes to live in and shower them with love and education. It was extremely ardent to talk to young and passionate innovators as they showed me their innovations and improvisations.

Having introduced myself and my journey with computers, I had the kids tell the software projects they were working on. It is liberating to hear innovative ideas they came up with, most of the time and people tend to lean towards copying something that has worked somewhere else and trying to plasticize it to the local market, however these kids thought outside the box. They had the ideas in mind only pending implementation. As most startup founders will tell you, an idea is worth 5% of the company at most, implementation saturates the rest.

To break this divide I shared some of the tools and methodologies for cutting the delivery time for turning the idea into a product. Find below the  hacks I shared all revolving around the idea that you should not reinvent the wheel, it has been proven for hundreds of years.

  • Getting your idea in shape

Prevention is better than cure. Creating an app that no one will use is the most disturbing and discouraging thing you will do this year. By identifying who the users of your app will be, you are able to talk to them and shape up your app idea. One of the most effective way for market validation is pre-orders. This process involves having people agree to your solution of their problem before there is a tangible solution. It is important to address painful problems that customers face as customers will easily pay to have the pain taken away.

  • Use an MBAAS

When you are building your app prototype, you need to find the shortest path to launch. This involves finding already made solutions that cut the delivery time. Instead of spending time deploying servers, you should be responding to customer complaints, creating v2 of your app, adding newer features.

There are several MBAAS ( Mobile Backend as a service) including Parse by Facebook, Ionic.io by Ionic and Strongloop+Loopback which is more advanced. Instead of spending time writing code to manage ACLs ( Access Control Logic), REST API infrastructure or user log in with Facebook, you should be spending time perfecting your product market fit. These frameworks have already implemented to the best standards available most of the common features every app needs, use them!

  • Integrate as many SDKs as you can

Many Software as a Service companies have implemented the most common needs an app provider will need. These basic needs such as analytics, customer support, customer relationship management have been implemented by experts doing it as a full time job. Check out and integrate Helpshift, Zendesk, Localytics, Google Analytics, e.t.c.

  • Track all errors

In order to continually improve your app experience, you need to be continually addressing bugs and glitches. Instead of searching for a needle in  a haystack, several error tracking softwares enable you to narrow down on bugs using stack traces and environment reconstruction. Check out Rollbar and Sentry.

  • Start with Hybrid apps

Native apps are attractive as a technical accomplishment as it involves mastering specific platform knowledge, however, if you are starting out, start with making a hybrid app. Hybrid apps utilize the webview component to run web apps as native apps. With HTML, CSS and Javascript you can make apps that run in all platforms including Android, IOS and Windows Phone.

There are several frameworks for developing hybrid apps, the most prominent being Ionic and OnsenUI following closely. Cordova/Phonegap enables you to tap into native functionality using Javascript. Several plugins exists for utilizing native functionality and if you are familiar with native programming languages, you can program plugins that communicate with the webview using Javascript.

  • Track your users

Instead of a black box system where you cannot profile your users, track engagement and conversion several analytics software enable you to implement this a easily. Use Google Analytics and Localytics ( Very effective for apps) to easy profile, segment and track your users.

The next time someone asks you, how many Monthly Active Users (MAUs) do you have? you can easily answer by checking your Localytics dashboard.

  • Ask for ratings and feedback

Customer feedback is the most important asset for your app improvement, talking to customers enables you to profile different use cases and understand who your users are. Anonymous feedback is especially additive for beta testers as they can easily express their honest opinions and help you improve your software. When you’re making your app into a business, the single most important accomplishment is product market fit, soliciting for customer feedback is one of the most important tasks you should chase after.

Building an app has been unmasked from an adept task to a goal that everyone with basic technical knowledge can pull off. Next time someone asks you when you are launching your app, don’t say in 3 months instead say 3 weeks because you can launch apps in that timeframe. As many startup experts such as Paul Graham will tell you, start with the Minimal Viable Product and iterate from there!

There are many opportunities disguised as problems in Africa, smart phones prices are plummeting, internet prices are on the downslide, develop an app that address these opportunities ASAP as it is a green field, no legacy systems here. Good luck building, no more excuses and bloated timelines!

6 Comments

  1. I concur, it’s best to have people who can do focusing on solving African society’s challenges with that they will have a very big effect on the bottom line.

    • And the fact that there are so many challenges means that necessity will demand for innovation, and business models that have not yet existed

  2. Ornella Ornella

    This is such helpful informations to know. I can see my way through, as I walk my journey to positively mpact my country Rwanda.

    • The journey of a thousand miles, begins with the first step 🙂
      All the best!

  3. Harry Harry

    I am about to launch an app here in Nairobi and need expert advice …. halla at your cousin ASAP
    0711682365

    • Hey Harry,

      I am just seeing this now, will reach out ASAP.

      Good luck with your launch.

      Regards,

      Peter

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