Safaricom plugs into MXit.
The first time I encountered or even heard of MXit was last year in October 2009 at the Mobile Web Africa Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. A presentation was being given by the MXit CEO Herman Heunis that plotted the rise and rise of the mobile social networking community. At the time, I was really shocked that they had over 10 million active users in South Africa alone comprised of largely teenagers and young adults.
The key aspect of MXit that draws most of its usage is its Instant Messaging service. Basically, instead of sending text messages on your phone you can use MXit to send instant messages in chat-like format. The major upside of using MXit is that each message is is much much cheaper than sending a text message on your phone – this is the reason why its so very popular with South Africa’s youth. But its so much more than texting – you can also access a host of other services and even buy an online currency called “moola” to then buy all sorts of goodies within MXit.
So, considering how well MXit has done in South Africa it was only matter of time before they would make their way to a large African mobile market like Kenya. More specifically, the large newspaper ads in this past week’s editions of the Daily Nation and East African Standard for MXit and Safaricom go to show how serious an entry they are making into Kenya. Basically, one just needs to access www.safaricom.com which is Safaricom’s mobile web portal and they can then follow the prompts to download and install the MXit app on their phones.
MXit also happens to work on a large number of mobile devices so its highly likely it will work on your phone if its Internet enabled. In addition, you can also install MXit on your PC or MAC too. Once registered on MXit, you can add friends and start chatting as well as accessing other services. Its not to the first time many would have accessed MXit in Kenya since it works on any mobile network with Internet access and was also used as a voting channel for the last edition of Big Brother Africa.
The obvious reason that Safaricom is pushing MXit is that it means more and more of its 18 million subscribers can go online and use data services through it. It also gives them an opportunity to use the MXit social network to develop and deploy new offerings through the same. Its a long haul play since MXit has over 20 million active users as of this writing.
However, to note is that Facebook recently launched 0.Facebook.com which is a new mobile site that includes all of the key features of Facebook but is optimized for speed. Its initially is available through more than 50 mobile operators in 45 countries and territories with zero data charges. I’m guessing that Safaricom will be one of the mobile operators who may/will sign-up for 0.Facebook.com since South Africa’s MTN has already rolled out the same through most of its mobile networks globally.