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African Business Opportunity: Multi-Platform Craigslist

By Wayan Vota on August 12, 2009

Here at ICTworks, we are always thinking about new business opportunities for ICT companies in Africa. Our latest thought would bring the Craigslist online classified ads idea to Africa, with a multi-platform twist.

Automate & centralize this inefficiency

Business Opportunity

People all over Africa want to buy and sell things. Right now, this exchange is very inefficient – they gather at markets or post fliers along the roadside, hoping that the right person would happen to pass by at the moment of their interest.

This means that sellers wait for an offer, often accepting a lower one just to sell the good or service, and buyers may settle for a substitute to want they wanted just to fill the need. Either way, both buyer and seller are unhappy and price and product vary wildly from day to day.

Solution: Craigslist

Years ago, America brought a revolution in efficiency to this process though classified ads in the local newspaper. Then Craigslist made the process digital with a simple, community driven site where buyers and sellers could come together an exchange goods, services, and even ideas. The majority of posts on Craigslist are free – they only charge for job ads and apartment rentals in certain markets – and they keep bandwidth costs low by having a simple, clean design.

The time is right for African ICT companies to launch their own Craigslist variant. A simple site where people can buy and sell items directly with each other. With the right promotion, such a site would grow in traffic quite quickly, with many ways to monetize the interest and eyeballs it commands.

Existing Competition

Two companies are already deploying their own version of Craigslist in Africa: Nairaland has Nairalist in Nigeria and Google has SMS Trader in Uganda.

Nairalist is the most direct copy of Craigslist, as it is essentially the very same design and layout as Craigslist, but they’ve focused on dating, jobs, and apartments at first, to drive usage. Google’s service is more innovative, as we’ve discussed before, but as its SMS based, it will be come expensive for heavy users.

Innovation Opportunity

I think there is a middle way that can blend both approaches. Take the Craigslist concept and add SMS to it, so users can read or post to the site using the web or SMS. This would give you amazing reach and let your users choose the medium they want to subscribe with.

Add RapidSMS, and users could even form their own groups – single guys subscribing to all the new dating posts by women, or all new job listings for accountants in Abuja – as a premium (ie: paid) service.

The site can be easily coded and integrated with RapidSMS, and once paired with an existing online community, like Nairland, it would have a quick adoption rate with the country’s digital elite. From there, it would spread via Internet to those who has access, and via SMS to everyone else. SMS could even be a premium short code to offset costs.

This opportunity is real, and just waiting to be capitalized on in every African country.

Filed Under: Opportunity
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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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4 Comments to “African Business Opportunity: Multi-Platform Craigslist”

  1. Wayan Vota says:

    From TechMasi we learn about Vottle, a classified ad online community for South Africa. It free to post classified ads on Vottle for its main readership, with a premium version reaching its entire readership. Vottle: http://www.vottle.com/

  2. Wayan Vota says:

    If you want to capitalize on this business opportunity, you better hurry. Craigslist itself has already launched in Kenya, and will take first mover advantage: http://kenya.craigslist.org/

  3. Wayan Vota says:

    And after Craigslist, we have N-Soko, which is also aiming to capture the classified ad traffic of 4 million Internet users and 18 million mobile subscribers in Kenya. N-Soko should be at http://www.n-soko.com/

  4. Richard says:

    Hey reading through this post makes me understand that you have not noticed the web version of the Google Trader here:- http://google.co.ug/africa/trader