Kenya has been branded a Silicon Savannah because it has seen the birth of mobile money which revolutionized money transfer in East Africa, the ever rising of tech and research incubator hubs and  more investments in startups. Day in day out, more apps are developed and the numbers are impressive.

The market is mainly curved out for Android mobile applications. This is owed to most internet consumers being on mobile handsets. The number of Apple users is minimal to say the least and while a few apps are made cross-platform and include them, the rest are made with the majority in mind. But with all this prospect and excitement still lies a lingering problem: many apps are released but don’t even see three months before they are taken down.

So why are mobile apps failing in this space? Why aren’t Kenyan apps becoming overnight sensations like Pokémon Go? Why aren’t developers making money in this space? You develop an app, tell a few friends to download, they do so because they are coerced to do so but that’s just about it. 60 downloads later and after hard work of putting material design and sleepless nights, you resign. Yes, you have several apps you built in your portfolio but they never materialized to anything. So why do they fail?

These are some of the things I picked up:


This is something that most developers do not consider when developing. An upload to the Play Store is considered a come to Jesus moment but what happen afterwards is left entirely to the developer. Here are some statistics according to Vizury Blog:

User behavior on installed apps

From the above, it is clear that if effort is not made, the app is likely to fail. Most developers do not want to re-engage their users with why they should use the app. Kenyans are known to be a very tough crowd and we are critical of anything and everything. Why should we use your app? Any benefits? Any extra goodies? Now back to the latter: goodies? Ever thought of having small rewards to your users? You could enter partnerships with service providers and give gifts to your users.

There will be more justification to use your app. It may require you to dig into your pockets but in the end, there is the greater good. Tracking uninstalls also helps you figure out what could be wrong with your app. This enables you to know your users. Get to know their most active times, identify ways of driving loyal user downloads.

While the future still remains bright for Africa in the tech space, more attention needs to be paid to app development continuity and sustenance

Finally, it goes without saying that personalization of users makes them feel wanted. Whenever you send mass mail to your users about your app, include their name and even location. This helps you build conversations with your users and you get them to know exactly what they want. This could be done jointly with a feedback mechanism that enables your users to comment on your application and where there is need to improve.

Example of a personalized email

 Re-engage! Re-engage!


This is probably the major contributor of the collapse of many apps. Little or lack of research has proven that you might be coming up with a service or product that already exists or would not survive. Take for instance an app that makes use of NFC (Near Field Communication). This is a brilliant idea, it can be used as a key card to open doors, cars, hotel doors and so much more. Here is the sad news: what are the chances of it surviving in a third world country where NFC-connected devices are minimal? How many users understand how NFC works? How much would it cost to have NFC infrastructure? These are the questions to be asked before building an app.

A better approach is to conduct a small pilot in order to have an opinion from your potential users on what they would want in an app. It clearly sets out your objectives. Next step is to formulate a survey/questionnaire and send it to your potential users and let them give feedback.

After scientific analysis, the findings would now make it clear on what is needed for the required application. You will not just be building another app on the play store, you will be solving a problem or innovating a necessary intervention. This means that your app has a better chance of surviving in this cold, cruel and harsh market. An average user will tell you if your app is worth it or not. Let’s face it, we are living in a dispensation where the truth will be told no matter the language, euphemism and figurative language used. Mediocre will not be tolerated so take a little time before you create another app!

Finally, with all this work, you may choose to present your findings at a conference or at a pitch to seek funding or investment. Numbers never lie and you might just get your big break.

While the future still remains bright for Africa in the tech space, more attention needs to be paid to app development continuity and sustenance. This could help sustain more innovations and control the exit of several apps that could not weather the Silicon Savannah space.


  1. Good points made. Also it would be good for app developers to differentiate between apps that serve their own wants as compared to apps that serve a missing need amongst them and the end users. This can only be ascertained through thorough research in that field. Nir Eyal puts it very well when he states that, “Many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new.”

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