Mobile companies in Africa are in a scramble to corner the market as quickly as possible. The usage of mobile phones has risen incredibly with many people owning 2 or more phones and or phones containing more than one sim card. Users are always looking for the most cost effective way to meet their needs and being on more than one network can allow them to use the various different offers from different companies.

Access to mobile phones, and to the internet is changing Africa. As you may have read phones are offering people across the continent opportunities that they have not had before. It is not just about communicating with people on Facebook or Whatsapp. People can now bank, sell agricultural produce, but African mobile network providers need to find ways to entice customers to their network.

Free night calls

When things were just hotting up, there were many offers to bring people into a network. One of those offers was free night calls. With some networks, such as MTN, you could make free night calls. To begin with the free night calls went from midnight to 5 in the morning. Student hostels would be awake to the sound of chatter deep into the night, as people called potential loved ones and friends back home. The mornings became more and more tiring affairs as people got less and less sleep. But, ultimately, the strategy worked, as many of the other networks jumped on board, increasing the free night calls to last for longer. The concept has engrained itself into culture that music is even being made out of it. Check out the video for Free Night Calls below from Ghana’s Sarkodie.

Bonus call time

It is not only in Africa that I have seen this method, but there, it is used very effectively. In Africa, most people still use the Pay as You Go system, as many don’t have the funds to tie themselves in a contract. The bonus call time gives them a little perk for topping up their phone. Essentially, this means that when you top up your phone a certain amount, you will receive bonus credit, that can be used for calls, texts and maybe data over a certain period of time. Users have to be careful to utilise this bonus credit before it runs out, or it is lost and only the topped up credit remains.

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Agressive marketing

Mobile companies are loyal to their colours. MTN has Yellow, Vodaphone has Red, and the various other companies try and choose something different for their branding. Their banners and billboards are hanging everywhere, shouting loudly at you to take on their network. Blues, greens, yellows, pinks, reds, adorn every available spot, with some private houses even being painted in the colours, in return for a small payment and a fresh lick of paint! Of course, there are also massive TV and online campaigns, with mobile companies sponsoring the major African sporting events. You may have notices MTN covering all the 2010 world cup in South Africa material.

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Vodaphone marketing in Accra

Data bundles

Recently, data is more important to many than call time and text messages. Now, with a data plan you are able to make calls over Skype, Whatsapp and Facebook (amongst others) and there are countless ways of communicating through texts. It is no longer necessary to use tradition calls and SMS. That is why phone networks are now offering data only deals. Data is traditionally expensive in Africa. You either use your normal call credit to browse the internet at exorbitant rates, or you you buy a ‘bundle’, which is a set amount of money for a set amount of data to be used in the month. This can also be expensive, but prices seem to be beginning to come down. For example, in August, Vodaphone started offering only data packages in Zambia (they do not have a license for call plans). $25 will get you 10 gig of data. They are not the first to offer such deals and to focus on the data market. YooMee Africa, from Switzerland, are also offering similar deals in Cameroon and Ivory Coast.

With MTN possibly in trouble again for transferring billions of dollars out of Nigeria, other mobile networks will be doubling their efforts to gain market share from their big competitors. They will be searching for more innovative ways to tempt customers to them. What drives you to a mobile network provider? Comment or let us know on Twitter @InventiveAfrica. Please  don’t forget to share the blog on Twitter and Facebook

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