The world's best 20 global apps from the AppCircus 2011 World Tour have been announced and three of the finalists are of African origin whilst two of these are the only women to make it to the top 20.
The three are Ugandan Christine Ampaire, of Mafuto Go!, an app which helps its user find the cheapest and nearest petrol station, Anne Githuku-Shongwe from South Africa with Moraba, a mobile quiz for young people which engages its users to answer questions about gender based violence, and MsemaKweli by Kenya's Isaac Osiemo, an app that allows users to find information about local NGOs, World Bank initiatives as well as thousands of community projects. On February 27th, they will be competing for the Best App of the Year award at the 6th annual Mobile Premier Awards, recognized internationally as the most important meeting point for start-ups and developers in the mobile and app community.
Indeed, as elsewhere, innovative use of app technology is flourishing in Africa. Business practices are being mixed with app technology in ways that are shaping entrepreneurship, products and services across the continent. African app developers are also creating ingenious apps which help solve local problems; from tackling sexually transmitted diseases to stereotypes in South Africa's youth sector to knowing where pot holes are in the roads in Uganda. Apps that are practical and allow people to do something that they weren't able to do before are proving particularly popular.
The Moraba App tackles gender based violence (GBV) through educating young people about the abuse that many women face not only in Africa but also globally. Concerned that with 200 million young Africans having mobile access and spending anywhere between one to eight hours per day on their phones, not enough content was designed to address the day to day challenges such as GBV, Anne Githuku-Shongwe resolved to creating an app targeting young people that not only identifies GBV but also motivates to action (such as testimony and reporting) and reverses negative gender stereotypes.
With declining donor budgets for grassroots movements, many activists are managing to mobilise outside the traditional NGO space using app technology. In developing apps that meet local needs and help to address social problems, the international recognition of the work of these three developers is significant.