Jørgen Arnesen, EVP of Mobile Browsers at Oper, on how Opera is bridging the digital divide in Sub-Saharan Africa.
By 2025, it is expected that 678 million people in the region will be connected to the internet. This continued surge in internet penetration will be driven by key fundamental factors:
- The United Nations reports that 60% of the region’s population is aged under 25, a demographic which will shape the future of Africa and will come online at a record pace.
- Carriers are transforming and accelerating the investment into infrastructure and 4G rollout, making data cheaper for consumers.
- GSMA reports that smartphone adoption is growing rapidly in Sub-Saharan Africa reaching 50% of total connection in 2020. This is due to the availability of more affordable smartphones and popular smartphone financing models.
Looking at these fundamental factors, we believe Africa has a bright future – which is why Opera has adopted its Africa First strategy. What does that mean? This means our mobile products and services are developed first and foremost with the African consumer in mind. This means we invest in the region to bring more people online and offer them the fastest and most reliable internet connection. This means we partner with local, regional and global leading companies to ensure we bring the best online experience to our users. This means we employ brilliant African colleagues across key cities like Lagos, Nairobi, Johannesburg and Cape Town who fill key functions such as business and product development, marketing, operations and editorial reps, to name a few.
Opera News was launched under the Africa First strategy two years ago. Today, it is the leading news and content app in Africa, with 25 million monthly active users as of Q3-2020, while the Opera News AI service is used by nearly 80 million users every month in the region. Opera News Hub was launched in Nigeria a year ago and today the platform publishes more than 10 thousand news articles on a daily basis in Africa. Another great example of a product incubated by our Africa First strategy is Olist, our classifieds business in Nigeria launched in August 2019. Today, Olist is the second biggest classifieds business in the country, with approximately 6 million monthly active users.
This year in Nigeria we launched Opera For Business in partnership with Google My Business to help local businesses come online and be discoverable by anyone at any time from any mobile device. Our vision is to provide every Nigerian business owner with better and more affordable ways to promote their businesses online, so that anyone connected to the internet can find them.
We believe access to the internet should be a universal right, though less than 1 in 3 people have access to the internet in Sub-Saharan Africa. In my home country Norway, which has a GDP per capita of $81,697, [2018 World Bank] the cost of 1 GB of data is $5.28. In South Africa, the same GB costs $4.30, slightly less than in Norway but the GDP per capita is $6,374. The difference is stark. Because of these fundamental challenges seen across Africa, we’re proud and humbled that Opera and Opera Mini are often considered synonymous with the internet. Every time I’m in Lagos, Nairobi or Joburg, it’s inspiring to hear that 9 out of 10 people know Opera. Ask anyone on the streets in Ikeja and they all know Opera Mini. I wish we had such brand awareness in Oslo!
More than 380 million people around the world choose our products every month with 150 million based in Africa. People choose our products because we provide faster, safer and more affordable ways of getting online. For example, our small and powerful Opera Mini browser, with more than 500 million installations from Google Play, is among the most popular apps in the world because it provides users with up to 90% data savings – thanks to our unique data compression technology.
Bringing nearly 40 million people online with Free Browsing
Among the key initiatives tied to our Africa First strategy this year are the partnerships we have formed with the leading telcos across Sub-Saharan Africa to provide people with free browsing in the Opera Mini browser. In Q1 this year we partnered with MTN and Airtel in Nigeria, followed by MTN Zambia. In the second quarter we expanded our partnerships with the telcos in Ghana; MTN, AirtelTigo and Vodafone. In August, we replicated our success with Safaricom in Kenya – among the leading telcos on the continent, soon followed by Airtel Kenya. More recently, we were excited to announce our partnership with MTN South Africa.
Through these ten partnerships, Opera has provided nearly 40 million people with up to 1.5 GB of free browsing every month across five African countries.
We’ve done this because we know that the cost of mobile data is the biggest barrier for people getting online in Africa. As we approach a new year, we expect to combine our strong presence on the market, and our high brand awareness, with our unique technology to offer even more people affordable ways of getting online.
Opera’s African user base reached 150 million in Q3-2020
In Q3-2020, the Opera user base in Africa showed a strong 18% growth of YOY across all our products, reaching a combined user base of 150 million monthly active users. We see significant growth in our apps like Opera Mini and Opera News, and we’re confident that our growth will continue next year.
We believe that developing better browsers and news apps that offer great features and personalized content has been key to Opera’s continued growth across Africa in 2020. We have optimized our apps to solve everyday challenges. For example, we added a news channel dedicated to COVID-19 where people could find trustworthy and reliable information using Opera Mini and Opera News and stay informed about the situation in their country. Opera News Hub has become the leading publisher of local African content with approximately 10,000 articles self-published every day.
We are continuing to optimize our products to offer our loyal users more reasons to use Opera. Users across many African countries can download and stream music in our Free Music channel while sharing the same content using our own file sharing feature. Also, we made it easier for users to monitor their data usage via the Data Savings module on the home page. Stay tuned for more exciting announcements coming soon!
As we wrap up 2020, I am very much looking forward to coming back to Africa soon and yet again spending time with our users, partners and colleagues.