In Asia, super apps have taken off, allowing users to book flights, hotels, games, and more all in one place.
However, they have yet to make an impact in Africa. Gozem is one company hoping to change that.
It began as a motorcycle-hailing app in Togo, West Africa, but has since expanded to include services such as food and grocery delivery, vehicle financing, and a digital wallet, as well as expanding to Benin and Gabon.
The company, which is based in Singapore, was founded by a Nigerian and two Swiss entrepreneurs who saw a gap in the market in West Africa.
Gozem claims that its app has been downloaded 800,000 times and that its 2,500 drivers have completed four million trips. Its current goal is to make the app unavoidable.
“What do we all do? You commute, you use transportation, you need to eat every day, you need to make payments. So, it’s all those key verticals that we all use in our daily life that we put in one app,” says Raphael Dana, Gozem’s cofounder.
Gozem isn’t the only startup aiming to create an African super app. Similar efforts are being made by Nigeria’s Gokada, which began as a ride-hailing service, and South Africa’s Vodacom (VDMCY), which is partnering with China’s Alipay.
Gozem, on the other hand, is concentrating on French-speaking Africa. According to Dana, developing a super app only makes sense in emerging markets because each service has less competition.
“In a developed market, it’s impossible to propose something that can do everything in all verticals and all the sectors. In Europe, in the US, there are too many players,” he says. “Because the (African) Francophone market is completely untapped, we can look at building a strong tech company, building data and solving real problems.”
Gozem was inspired by two Asian super apps, according to Dana: Grab, a ride-hailing platform in Singapore, and Gojek, a ride-hailing and delivery service in Indonesia.
“We believe that Southeast Asia is the best role model to look at when you want to build a startup in Africa,” says Dana. “You are going to find a lot of similarities in the problems the populations are facing.”
Super apps are expected to generate $500 billion in revenue by 2025, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company, with growth in Asia and emerging markets like Brazil.
Anindya Ghose, a business professor at NYU and author of “Tap: Unlocking the Mobile Economy,” points out that Africa has a growing number of smartphone users and startups looking to expand their app offerings.
However, according to Ghose, a lack of high-speed internet access could be a barrier to super app adoption, and monetizing them could be difficult. Commissions from vehicle financing, rides, and deliveries, as well as transaction fees on payments, are how Gozem plans to make money, according to the company.
On the continent, super apps have not always had it easy. WeChat from Tencent (TCEHY) hasn’t been able to match its success in Asia, despite Facebook’s (FB) rival messaging app Whatsapp having a strong presence in Africa. Another ride-hailing service with super app ambitions, CanGo Africa, shut down in 2020, reportedly due to a lack of funding.
Despite the difficulties, Ghose sees opportunities, but it remains to be seen who will take advantage of them.
Gozem plans to launch in Cameroon by the end of the year, with Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and the Ivory Coast following by the end of 2022.