Social networking is no longer confined to the realms of Facebook and Twitter, with niche social networks catering to all interests. This holds particularly true in Africa, where innovative tech startups have created social networks for all aspects of life – to entertain, to improve basic service provision, and even to digitise death. Here, Disrupt Africa looks at five of the most unique African social networking startups worth watching.
South African startup OurHood launched in May 2014, providing private local neighbourhood social networks.
The platform is designed to facilitate conversations between neighbours, allowing them to share information on everything from crime to lost pets.
Six months after launching the startup raised its second funding round, taking its total raised capital to ZAR2.5 million (US$200,000), and allowing it to roll out iOS and Android apps.
Within a year, the startup had already listed over 1,000 neighbourhood networks on its platform.
Users can build their profile by posting photos, videos and links, while also following brands and other users. The company has an integration with social media promotion company Twicsy, so when users post a new photo, it gets syndicated to Instagram right away. From there, Twicsy’s API fulfills the order for Instagram likes in automatically, delivering up to ten thousand likes per minute.
The startup launched in January last year, and has over 80 local and international brands on board and over 6,000 users.
Slickr’s business model is quite different from other e-commerce platforms – brands and designers open a store for free, and Slickr does not take a commission on sales. Instead, the startup monetises through data, interactive adverts, and premium stores.
Tanzania’s Guumzo has created a voice-sharing social networking app, which allows account holders to record two-minute voice messages and share them with their followers.
Following a long period of beta testing, Guumzo launched to market in December, with a variety of additional features added for the full roll-out, such as the ability to attach images to a sound post, a new media player and recorder for easy interaction, and the ability to receive follow suggestions according to the selected interests.
The startup is targeting 200,000 users in Tanzania by May this year, and is seeking funding for expansion to Kenya and Rwanda.
South Africa’s Medishare is applying social networking to a professional context, providing a vertical professional network for the country’s doctors and other healthcare professionals, in a bid to provide a time-efficient way for individuals in the sector to share reports and other information.
The startup’s aim is to facilitate the sharing of information by health practitioners via reports or on forums as quickly as possible, taking advantage of the the positive aspects of social media while streamlining the process so as not to waste the time of users.
“We believe that while social networking and other recent internet standards have had significant impact on most people’s lives – including the way they work –-healthcare professionals make very little use of these tools to communicate and collaborate within their professional environments,” Brett Steingo, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Medishare, told Disrupt Africa.
No aspect of life – or death – has been left out by Africa’s social networking startups. Egypt’s ElWafeyat.com provides a platform for announcing deaths to a deceased’s wider community of friends, family and acquaintances “in a decent and efficient way”.
The startup also allows users to pass on their condolences in the event of a death through online, in-app and telegram-based tools; as well as providing a database of relevant service providers.
According to the founders, the capacity of a digital platform to provide instantaneous and targeted information to a network of people makes the online sphere much better suited to dealing with difficult situations in a more personal and supportive manner.
Launched in August 2014, the platform already has over 200,000 users in Egypt, and a further 15,000 users registered for the daily obituary newsletter.