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The Malawi Mobilization Challenge

Vito MargiottaVito Margiotta

The Snapp team is just coming back from Malawi after finishing the first activity in the country (the Malawi Mobilization Challenge), and we simply could not be more excited about the outcomes and future prospects..

Why we are very excited about Malawi

In 2015, Malawi’s economy continues on the path to recovery in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2012. GDP growth (+5.7% by 2014) has been largely driven by agriculture and this upward trend is forecasted to continue thanks to the positive contribution of the manufacturing, wholesale, retail trade, and service sectors.

Information Technologies are playing a key role in empowering and expediting this growth. Mobile smartphone penetration is already at 40%, and with the help of the government opening the market for competition, and thanks to the recently completed connection to the international submarine fiber optic cable, it is expected to keep growing at this staggering speed.

The whole country is completely mobile-first and mobile-only. The average consumer is extremely tech savvy and mobile phones are now allowing an unprecedented access to innovations; hence playing a huge role in shaping the economy.

Mobile only economy

The average Sub-Saharan's African consumer is a young (more than 70% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population is under 30 years old, with countries like Malawi accounting for a median age of 16.3 y.o. in 2015 - link ) individual with high expectation of the future and thirtsy of innovation and economic growth.
This user is a mobile first and a mobile-only user, with the smartphone hence representing not only the first but also the only point of touch with the internet and with a connected world. She/he will never interact with and use a physical PC keyboard, and the smartphone plays and will more and more play a vital role into both the personal and the business life, and especially for the distribution and purchase of services and for the creation of content.
Or best put by the words of Mausam Bhatt, Senior Director of Flipkart, “Gone are the days when mobile was used for entertainment purpose only. Consumers from small cities and villages too are using apps for shopping, maps, games, entertainment, news and knowledge, among others. Things have changed immensely and we need to cater as per the demand of the market. The next revolution is going to happen from small places”.

Mobile Data is the King

Most mobile phone users in Malawi do not buy a monthly data plan, every user buys as much data as he/she needs. At any street corner around the capital you could find a small merchant selling a small paper card with number to activate a certain amount of Data. Sometimes Mobile Data can even replace real cash, you could pay your local taxi driver by transferring Mobile Data to the driver's account.
Due to lack of credit cards and international banking policy it is very hard to transfer money via traditional web payment methods such as PayPal. Hence, it is much easier for the local user to transfer mobile data then to transfer physical money so to pay for services or to send money home.

Community and entrepreneurship

Malawians are best known for their strong sense of community, openness and friendliness. These are key elements that tend to foster and accelerate innovation. Therefore it is not surprising to see how fast the local tech community is growing. The community is not waiting for aid or government support, but is finding new ways to “Bootstrap”, create revenue stream and partner up with global tech companies.
Community based entrepreneurship endeavors are re-shaping the tech destiny of the Malawian economy. Among all, one group that has been leading the pack is Mhub Malawi. Led by founder Rachel Sibande the MHub team created a vibrant co-working space and accelerator where young entrepreneurs are working to find tech solutions for local and global problems.

Snapp and the Malawi Mobilization Challenge

The key to a Mobile only economy is to be hyper localized when building a mobile presence. In a time when more and more problems could be solved via mobile, zeroing in on the needs of the local user allows mobile-ready-companies to bring the most value.

Few weeks ago we joined forces together with teams from MHub, Keepod, SourceITsolutions Unicef and Snapp, and launched the Malawi Mobilization challenge.
We wanted to join efforts with the local tech ecosystems and support Malawi's users and businesses in their efforts for coming online. The goal: build tools to help businesses, schools, NGOs and more to build their first mobile presence.


For 3 days youth from all over the capital of Malawi Lilongwe came over to the offices of MHub to search for local problems and solutions. With their mobile phones and Keepod devices at disposal, the youth used Snapp Builder to bring businesses online and to build hyper localized solutions for the local community.

Apart from the deep learning experience we were quite amazed by the level and the impactful apps that were created. From apps for helping women education to apps monitoring wildlife and environment conservation, apps for school, businesses and many more.


Local public figure and worldwide renowned TED speaker William Kamkwamba joined us in the celebration, along with representatives from the local Telecom Company Skyband and the local Radio Station Capital Radio Malawi.

It is an exciting time

At Snapp, we believe into empowering through technology and into the positive outcome that a proper use of mobile devices can have on local communities across the globe.

It is an exciting time for Malawi and for all those companies and individuals that like us are working toward empowering users and businesses to build their mobile presence and hyper localized content.
So much happened in only 4 weeks, and we honestly cannot wait to share soon the great news and projects that spurred out of this first activity in Malawi... from a local Malawian entrepreneur that was able to build his own business by using Snapp Builder and Fiverr to sell mobile apps to Fiverr clients (by the end of the year this local business is expected to grow its staff to 30 people - link), to the opening of the first Snapp Shop :) :)
If you want to know more or if you want to join efforts with us on this quest for mobile, please Email Us, support MHUb Malawi , get more info on Keepod, discover how to run your own Mobilization Challenge, and download Snapp Builder.

The Snapp Team