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Q&A with Bontle Moeng founder of BizNis Africa

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Bontle Moeng is the Founder and Managing Director for BizNis Africa. BizNis Africa is an independent online trade and investment news website that focuses on Africa’s 3 major business economic sectors – ICT, Mining and Energy.

Moeng has over 12 years working experience in the online media industry, where she was responsible for successfully managing content and social media platforms for leading global brands. She has a strong passion for creating content that engages and grows online users.

Throughout her media career, she has worked as an Online Journalist, Online Marketing Manager, Social Media Community Manager and Online Content Manager for various companies – Media 24, Big Media, eNitiate, Global Interface Consulting and agencies including: City of Joburg,
SAInfo, ITWeb, Starfish Mobile,
MiWay,
ITNewsAfrica, SME South
Africa, AVATAR, Eskom IDM and Eskom 49M.

Moeng holds a BA Journalism Degree from the Midrand Graduate Institute and a Digital Marketing Diploma from the AAA School of Advertising.

Q: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
A: Writing and Researching relevant content to publish on the website. In addition, I enjoy interviewing corporate executives from various African countries. I gain a lot of insight from their experience. The African population has a wealth of knowledge and is filled with very smart professionals.
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Q: Did you always want to be an online business magazine publisher?
A: Absolutely. That’s the main reason I studied Journalism in the first place. My plan was not to become a Journalist but to understand the industry and launch my own publication. I’m currently fulfilling my passion and purpose.

Q: When did you realise you wanted to be doing this?
A: In 2010 I attended an MBA on Entrepreneurship workshop at GIBS. As soon as I arrived home I drafted my business idea. BizNis Africa was established that evening.

Q: What online/offline publications do you read to keep up with developments and trends in your industry?
A: I tend to read Ventures Africa, CNBCAfrica, Forbes Africa, ITNewsAfrica, TechCentral, Memeburn, MyBroadband, Mining Weekly, Destiny Connect, Business Day and ITWebAfrica on a daily basis.

Q: What’s the next big thing in your industry?
 A: I think Online Content Strategy Techniques will play a vital role across the industry. It can assist business leaders to make informed decisions regarding the value of their websites to their clients and users.

Q: How has the internet impacted your industry/job?
 A: The Internet has changed the global news reporting process. The manner at which journalists gather relevant news and disseminate it to an audience is quicker than in previous years. The Internet has played a vital role in growing the entire online industry. As a result, there are more online business ventures and social entrepreneurs in the world.

Q: How are you using social media or other digital tools to connect with your consumers and readers?
A: BizNis Africa uses social media to share the latest content, spread breaking news and to engage users on topical ideas.
Do you think digital marketers understand social media? What about publishers?
Digital Marketers have a fair amount of understanding the impact of social media for their business. There are more key trends that they need to consider as the industry is constantly evolving. There is no business that can claim to know everything and be able to provide all the answers.

The industry as a whole thrives on sharing ideas and constantly acquiring new skills.
Online publishers need to get more in-depth understanding of social media. Most online publishers have not embraced or used social media effectively. I am confident that digital marketers and online publisher’s attitude towards social media can change to offer a real return on investment.

Q: What mistakes do companies commonly make when trying to communicate to you via social media?
 A: Most companies assume I will respond immediately. At times I’m caught up with editorial deadlines and tend to get back to them at a later time. Perhaps I need a social media community manager that can look after that aspect of the business.

Q: Apple or Samsung?
 A: Samsung has always been my preferred choice. I just love their product design and apps.

The Kenyan mobile revolution: Monetise or die

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Kenya has come to be known as Africa’s mobile technology innovation powerhouse. The country attained this enviable title on the back of a string of successful and widely adopted mobile innovations. M-Pesa, the mobile money transfer was the innovation that set the scene for the Kenya Mobile revolution and was the first to operate on a large scale.
Since then a lot has happened in the mobile tech space in Kenya, including the launch of m-lab. The facility was launched with the aim of encouraging mobile technology innovation in the East African country and was supported by Nokia and the Kenyan Government. Since then, we have seen the likes of M-Farm, a mobile service that enables farmers to get information about the current retail price of their products.

What is of interest to me is not just the technology and skills behind the developers in Kenya, but how they maximise the available resources to innovate and deliver localised solutions that improve people’s lives on the ground as opposed to just developing a cool iPhone app that will suffer a slow death in the maze that is the iStore. That for me, is the key difference in approach between how for instance, South African developers focus on the global picture but miss the mark in their locality.

Yet with all this international acclaim and success, Kenyan developers and tech entrepreneurs have one nagging problem they need to solve, monetisation. With all the interest and investment pouring in from companies like Nokia, Samsung , Google and other stakeholders, the need to monetise and turn development houses to viable business will only increase.

Monetisation is not a uniquely Kenyan problem nor is it just an African problem. It is a universal challenge that a lot of tech start-ups all over the world are grappling with, including the likes of Twitter. Facebook is also struggling to figure out how to generate an income stream through mobile as the world shifts towards mobile web browsing.

Building apps and feature phone technology not only takes time and resources, you need to attract skills to grow the industry and that requires capital. It is my prediction that as mobile phone manufacturers like Huawei deliver on the promise of a cheaper smart phone, we will see more developers in Kenya focusing their energy on building mobile apps that will fulfill the Kenyan imperative, technology for the people. But unless the delicate balance between ICT for development and mass monetisation of the Kenyan mobile industry is achieved, we will have to wait a while longer for the next Apple or Microsoft to emerge from East Africa and indeed the whole of Africa.

The significance of mobile strategies

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A few months ago I was in Cape Town attending an email marketing campaign on behalf of Everlytic. Following this successful event, my interests shifted to Cape Town’s night life and like a typical Joburger, I sought to enjoy the assortment of watering holes this city has to offer. Sadly my bar hopping adventure was cut short when my brother and I were skilfully relieved of our cell phones.
One phone mysteriously disappeared at the bar, and the other, snatched from my brother as we left. With our street cred down the drain, I recounted the story to some Cape Town friends. Apparently cell phone theft plagues the Cape of good dope to such an extent that you’re more likely to get your car broken into for the pure intent of nabbing a cell phone, than for actually stealing the car.

Of course, this got me thinking. In terms of technology, mobile phones now compete with high end computers, television sets and leading tech entertainment tools. In essence, mobile phones are productivity and entertainment tools rolled into one – they’re not called smartphones for nothing!

It’s no wonder the gadget is so sought after; almost everyone has one and it ranks up there with other entertainment essentials like a tablet or an Xbox.

Penetration stats speak for themselves

The African mobile penetration stats speak for themselves. More than half the internet connections in Africa are exclusively on mobile; Africa is the second biggest mobile market in the world.

I don’t want to bore you with the numbers but it’s increasingly clear that savvy marketers should have a mobile strategy or at least be working on one. Even Capetonian thugs have caught on to the importance of mobile, though their mobile strategy leaves much to be desired.

The importance of mobile as a channel seems to be obvious, but why then are we not seeing a correlation in marketing-spend by companies? With this increasing importance given to cellular phones, (I’m not referring to the ads that come with SMS banking alerts) it is essential that companies adopt more progressive mobile marketing technologies.

When SMS banking alerts came out, it was an exciting solution that solved real world problems. But there are even more mobile platforms that companies can embrace to be able to reach consumers. Think MXit, rich media ads, email marketing for mobile and location based services for upwardly mobile hipsters in Cape Town, just to name a few.

“Mobile only” internet connected audience

I bet my lunch money that the marketing tactics doing well in mobile are email marketing and rich media ads. Some may argue that there is audience fatigue as far as these tactics are concerned. But I don’t agree, mobile phones are opening up a totally new “mobile only” internet connected audience. And guess what happens when this audience connects to the internet for the first time? They sign up for an email account and engage with adverts that speak their language. These are the millions of people that would otherwise not have been able to connect to the internet; the millions that you are not reaching, because there’s no mobile strategy in place to connect with them.

The next time I’m in the Cape, I’ll not only be keeping an eye on my phone but on good mobile content that can only come from having a well-planned mobile strategy.

Technology should be used for social transformation

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I have always been of the opinion that nothing should be invented just for the sake of its novelty value, except art. In the case of technology I have always been of the assertion that you should be able to monetise whatever technology or platform you invent. It just makes business sense considering how much you can potentially spend on research and development.

I work in the online space, and I love it. As cliché as this may sound it’s true. I may not love it every single day, but I love it enough. That’s because the Internet has the potential to literally determine how competitive a country can be in the global arena, based on how well it embraces the possibilities that it presents.

Of particular interest to me is how start ups and other technology focused companies can make a contribution not only to economic growth, but to socially transform the communities around them.
But before we can truly see our communities transform, our government needs to take the tech industry seriously.

In South Africa we have really high internet costs, and it’s no secret that Telkom’s reluctance to unbundle the local loop is driven by the parastatal’s desire to maximise profits. Because of this reality, the average South African has limited access to the Internet; this then implies that the ability to share information is limited. This has an adverse effect on South Africa’s competitiveness in the global knowledge economy.

A lot has been said about the need to foster a culture of entrepreneurship is this country and the desperate need to create meaningful jobs. This, I am sorry to say, will always be a pie in the sky if the powers that be do not recognise the importance of information sharing , of which the internet is a catalyst. We simply need cheaper internet access if we are to drag the rest of the popuation kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.

There are already a few companies that are using their technology to affect social change in South Africa. pMailer is one of those companies. The Rosebank based email communications solutions provider is currently running an Education Project where they give a free pMailer account to schools across South Africa. Each school gets 6000 free email credits per month to communicate with their alumni, parents and other stake holders. Schools get to send out regular communications, completely free of charge.

Broadband prices have started to drop, driven primarily by competition amongst the local mobile operators, but in my opinion these remain relatively out of reach for the vast majority of the population. The day we see these prices drop to affordable rates, is the day we can see technology make a real difference in the communities that surround us, urban and rural.