Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

Doing IM differently - The new trends and tech changing how Nigerian's communicate in 'mobile Africa'

Worldwide, instant messaging has become the number one communication platform for personal as well as business-to-consumer messaging. Ordering a taxi, shopping, banking, customer service, chats, internet content, dating, hobbies and lots more are increasingly chat based. Whether it’s between individuals, a business and an individual or a chatbot and an individual, instant messengers are becoming the centre of all communication. While still dominated by SMS, emerging markets like Nigeria are expected to follow this trend.

In feature phone-heavy Nigeria, SMS has been the number one way of messaging. The domination of SMS in B2C messaging is impressive in Nigeria - way above the global average. Research results by Mobile Ecosystem Forum revealed that 47% of Nigerians receive an unwanted SMS every day. Globally the same figure is only 28%. The shift of messaging to instant messengers is a global phenomenon and we can expect Nigeria to follow, seeing the move away from SMS.

93% of Nigerian adults own a mobile phone, of which 51% are smartphones

Instant messaging is coming to Nigeria as smartphone penetration grows. 93% of Nigerian adults own a mobile phone, of which 51% are smartphones. Even though the figures are rapidly growing, only some 6% of the Nigerian population is using social services like Jongla, Snapchat or Facebook on smartphones. The growth of the social service usage in Nigeria is driven by men, as 66% of Facebook accounts belong to them.

We are going to see explosive growth in mobile social usage. Nigeria is a mobile first country with only 13% of adults owning a laptop or desktop computers. There’s huge potential for social smartphone apps as the remaining half of mobile phone owners adopt smartphones in the coming years. Of the 185 million people in Nigeria, some 11 million are so far accessing social apps via mobile. 

In Nigeria, mobile networks are often unreliable and mobile data is expensive

To win over the Nigerian audience, we had to overcome the obstacles characteristic of emerging markets. In Nigeria, mobile networks are often unreliable and mobile data is expensive. In order to deliver messages safely and to save user’s prepaid data plans, we have built the service to transfer as little data as possible.

Where Jongla aims to win the battle for Nigerian instant messenger users is through innovation and creating a light but full-featured app. We have made the strategic decision to make our apps as low in data consumption as possible. This way, people in emerging nations can save money and data with our messenger.

  • Lite – world’s lightest messenger helps people to save money and data
  • Jongla Out – send messages and chat with people inside or outside Jongla
  • People – built-in community helps users to discover interesting new people nearby
  • Reactions – a new way to express friendship and an interest in meeting new people
  • Push-to-talk with filters – voice filters that add a layer of fun to voice messaging

Lite: Within the next two years, a whole new generation of mobile natives, roughly a billion people, will access the mobile Internet, mostly via low-end smartphones with prepaid plans. Emerging markets, the driver of this growth, still suffer from low connectivity and the high cost of data. In 2015, Jongla became the world’s lightest full-featured messaging app in an effort to help people save money and data. According to our studies, Jongla uses 80% less data compared to Viber and 25% less data compared to Facebook Messenger. Jongla also takes a fraction of data to download compared to all major competitors.

Jongla Out: Jongla Out technology means that chatting is no longer restricted to a specific app or platform. Jongla users now have the ability to chat as normal with any of their contacts, no matter what messaging service their contact is using, or even if they don’t use any. The receiver can reply via free web chat. This makes messaging simple and barrier-free for everyone. 

Jongla users can now discover and interact with new friends based on their location with a built-in community feature

People: Since summer 2016, in addition to chatting, Jongla users can now discover and interact with new friends based on their location with a built-in community feature called ‘People’. The feature was designed to enable users to be able to discover interesting new people around them. To protect user privacy, only an approximate location is given and the feature is optional.

Reactions: Also, added alongside the community, is the ability to engage with user profiles with a choice of reaction. Reactions can be exchanged between people to express emotions from a simple thumbs-up, smile or even a virtual flirtation with a heart. Our emotions towards other people might sometimes be hard to put into words. We wanted to give our users a way to express their friendship or interest towards new people in a meaningful and fun way.

Push-to-talk with filters: Push-to-talk is a feature that allows quick messaging even for those who have a hard time writing messages for different reasons. We wanted to make this feature worthwhile for even those who didn’t find the feature useful before. This is why in May 2015, we released a unique voice effects studio within Jongla. With this innovative feature, users are able to record up to one minute push-to-talk messages and choose from pre-installed high quality voice filters making the sound like a squirrel, monster or the police. Think Instagram for voice.

About the author:

Riku Salminen is one of the industry pioneers working on new OTT messaging services. Riku and his global team at Jongla is on a mission to change how people communicate in the future and driving one of the most promising mobile messaging startups towards innovation and success.

Riku has worked previously in the fields of telecommunications, media, advertising, gaming and startups. As an innovator and driver Riku has spent his entire career involved in creating new digital innovations and businesses.

Riku will be speaking and taking part in two sessions at Nigeria Com 2016.

Day 2:
Industry address: Disrupting the instant messaging market The future of IM for Nigerian market needs

Plenary panel: Enhancing content integration to bridge the digital revenue gap – the rise of data driven services through smart devices

Be part of the African tech and telco conversation, here:

  • Digital in 2016 by WeAreSocial 
  • Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s Messaging report 
  • Android Application Package sizes in Google Play Store, May 17th, 2016 
  • A data consumption study carried out by Jongla with Android SDK command line tools and Linux Kernel, June 7th, 2016

Innovation hub


MTN tackles SA power woes with wind & solar hybrid project

MTN South Africa has launched an integrated wind and solar renewable energy generation project as part of its Net Zero efforts.


Interview: Qualcomm execs on mentorship for African startups

Qualcomm Technology VP for Engineering, Sudeepto Roy, and Elizabeth Migwalla, VP for Government Affairs, join Connecting Africa for a video interview about Qualcomm's Make in Africa Mentorship Program.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Sponsored video

More videos

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Flash poll

All polls

Africa Tech Perspectives


Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.


Challenges and opportunities for women's tech careers

A new survey reveals that COVID-19, the cost-of-living crisis, skills shortages and a lack of mentorship have negatively affected women's career development over the past two years.


Survey: Opportunities for Women in Tech

Take our new survey for women across Asia, Europe and Africa looking at the biggest challenges and opportunities for women-led enterprises and trends in tech careers for women.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Upcoming events

London Tech Week
June 13-16, 2023
Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Broad Sanctuary, London SW1P 3EE
Cybertech Africa 2023
August 1-2, 2023
Kigali Convention Center, Kigali, Rwanda
Africa Tech Festival, Home of AfricaCom and AfricaTech
November 13-16, 2023
CTICC, Cape Town
More Upcoming events

Guest Perspectives


Omdia View: February 2023

By Omdia Analysts

In February 2023 key events in the Middle East and Africa included a major Internet project for Africa's underserved by Liquid Intelligent Technologies and Microsoft as well as a 5G launch in Tanzania – that and more in this month's Omdia View.


Omdia View: July 2022

By Omdia Analysts

Kenya and Zambia move towards 5G with new spectrum allocations while Tunisie Telecom plans to shut down its 3G network - that and more in this month's Omdia View.

More Guest Perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up