Increasingly, African mobile manufacturers are in vogue. In South Africa, there is Zest and Dream Mobile. Congo has VMK. The latest Africa-based phone company to claim attention is Nigeria’s Nerve Mobile, which recently made waves at the Demo Fall and Diaspora Demo Day events in the United States.
Yet Nerve Mobile claims to be different from its competitors across the continent.
“We are differentiated from other African smartphone providers because of our devices are part of an integrated mobile ecosystem that includes a content store, cloud services and mobile payment services which all come with well-thought localisation and desktop convergence elements,” Nerve founder Silas Okwoche told Disrupt Africa.
“We have taken a holistic view on how to make the smartphone most relevant to people in Africa beyond just hardware specifications.”
Two models of Nerve smartphones have thus far been released, the Nerve Orange – which retails at around US$78 – and the Nerve Nile – which costs about US$200.
Okwoche said low-cost smartphones are crucial to the future economic growth of the continent.
“It is imperative that low-cost smartphones be rolled out across Africa because these kinds of devices will enable millions of people to gain greater personal productivity and overcome infrastructural challenges that limit broader access to crucial information and services now available over the internet,” he said.
“Most people still use feature phones and most don’t own PCs, thus they are currently cut off from the information age. A well-designed device that grants this kind of access and ability shouldn’t be luxury, it should be a right!”
Claiming to be different from its rivals might sound like bravado, but so far Nerve – founded in 2012 – has made a bigger impression than the aforementioned customers. The US appearances apart, the company has begun making sales and in October of last year earned a US$200,000 seed funding round, the type of money that has thus far eluded its competitors.
Okwoche claims the success was born out of a different way of thinking.
“We set out to create a mobile technology ecosystem that really addressed the needs of people in Sub-Saharan Africa and solve real problems for real people here beyond fancy features and device specifications,” he said. “Our idea is centered on how we can build better mobile technology to improve the quality of life in Africa in the areas of education, healthcare, financial inclusion and personal productivity.”
The key to Nerve, he said, is its convergence mobile communication and productivity enhancement.
“The Nerve smartphone and its accompanying ecosystem is designed from the ground up to provide enhanced relevance and access to the information age for the mobile first generation of Africa,” he said.
“Essentially, the Nerve is built to drive the adoption of smartphones from feature phones in Africa via the provision of a well-integrated hardware, software and mobile services platform that allows for premium features like desktop computing, cloud storage, mobile payment and locally relevant content, all at affordable price.”
The future for Nerve, according to its founder, is to sell its phones across the continent and perhaps in the Caribbean. It also aims to one day soon produce the phones in Africa, something that has also eluded companies of its type thus far.
“We have a roadmap to produce our Nerve devices on the African continent in the near future and so we have set this goal in motion,” Okwoche said.
“We will be making use of next generation modular manufacturing techniques to disrupt the local production economics and supply chains. For us its more than making sexy tech, its about how to get Africa into the deeper end of technology production to solve global problems, starting with ours.”