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Time for Africa to embrace local apps



By Chris Moyo

THE decision by messaging and social media giant WhatsApp to share its users’ data with parent company Facebook has brought to the fore the debate about the need for Africa and Africans to develop and use their own applications.

WhatsApp recently announced changes to its privacy policy which will soon allow the sharing of users’ personal data with Facebook – data such as users’ contact lists, their location, some financial information and users’ data usage patterns.

Since the announcement, WhatsApp’s rivals have seen a record number of downloads as wary users turn to “safer” and less intrusive messaging and social media applications.

Although WhatsApp says it will not access private conversations between users, since they are encrypted, the case for a social media app by Africans and for Africans has never been stronger.  

It is why Sasai, Cassava Fintech International’s all-in-one messaging, social media, entertainment and payments app must now be considered with the seriousness it deserves.

The app, introduced less than two years ago, has been downloaded in more than 180 countries and is already available in over 50 African languages –  including Swahili, Hausa, Shona, Zulu, Yoruba, Igbo and Ndebele, among many others.  

While the number of Sasai downloads were not immediately available – they are thought to be in the millions –  what makes Sasai’s value proposition all the more compelling, and what bodes well for the app’s future is its integration of several functionalities on one app.

Its chat function offers your conventional social media messaging functionalities, including peer-to-peer instant messaging, group chats and both audio and video conferencing – what it calls Sasai TeamTalk –  for up to 20 people. This is already a big plus compared to WhatsApp, which currently offers group calls for only 8 people.

Sasai’s explore function is probably one of its most exciting services, with features such as Moments and Sasai Watch among the explore options.

Sasai Moments allows users to post and share videos, audio notes, pictures and user location tags, among other features. It employs user-generated content. The feature can also be used to showcase sales products and services which can in fact be bought using the app’s payments feature.

Sasai Watch, which some users have called Africa’s own YouTube, allows content creators to upload their content directly on the platform, including musicians, celebrities, sports personalities, entrepreneurs and ordinary people.

A real trump card Sasai that has over other social media apps is its payment platform, which allows users to pay for goods and services online. With the Sasai Wallet, users can pay buy goods and services and pay. They can also link the wallet to their bank banks, or to credit cards such as MasterCard, The can also send money across Africa using Sasai Remit.

Sasai has also raced to incorporate the Africa CDC Travel Pass on to its services, positioning itself as a relevant go-to app at a time the world is battling a Covid-19 pandemic.

The Travel Pass is an online healthcare data management platform that, among other things, captures and securely shares Covid-19 test information for ease of travel across national borders. Aware of the furore around WhatsApp’s impending privacy policy changes, Sasai – which has end-to-end encryption and boasts of financial transaction-grade security on its platform –  has recently been telling the world that the privacy of its users is its priority and, in a cheeky one liner, that “What happens on Sasai, stays on Sasai”.