Mxit Takes Lead, Integrates Market Research With Mobile App

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Written by Kimberly Jacobs

In a world of heavy social media use, mobile app Mxit — which is wildly popular in South Africa, and 127 other countries — is ahead of the curve. This is largely due to its ability to be used on the most basic of cellular phones and smartphones. With over 7.4 million users, Mxit’s mobile platform accessibility has allowed the app to beat Facebook in popularity and active users in South Africa.

Recently, the app released Mxit7 for feature phones and joined the Digital Media and Marketing Association. Mxit has come a long way from where it started in the early 2000s. Then, Namibian-born software developer and founder Herman Heunis had an idea for being able to play games inexpensively with people all over the world. Instead of communicating via SMS texts, Heunis’ idea snowballed into a more economical way to chat with friends using a mobile instant messenger.

By 2006, the company began to grow into what it is today. Mxit, a visually stunning chat app which allows users to draw, record messages and upload photos and backdrops also integrates games, health, safety and education information into its social media platform.

“Being mobile first we are able to solve problems for emerging markets, rather than trying to be a social network that’s usually ‘PC first’ — which becomes a dumbed-down version of itself on mobile,” Francois Swart, MXit CEO told AFKInsider.

The History of Mxit

In South Africa, and other countries in Africa, the use of computers amongst residents in rural areas isn’t overly common. This rise of cell phone use —  even amongst those who lack other tech resources — has helped to make Mxit successful in its reach of the company’s target audience, ages 13-35.

In 2011, Heunis sold all of his shares in the company to Alan Knott-Craig Jr. and went on a sabbatical. The following year, Craig left his position as CEO allowing Francois Swart to step in temporarily. In September, Swart was officially appointed as the CEO of Mxit.

Following that adjustment was the announcement of Michael Jordaan, former CEO of First National Bank (FNB), joining the board of directors as the new chairman. Jordaan is known for his technical advancements in South Africa, creating digital and mobile solutions. It was only befitting that the man behind FNB’s banking app — the first in the country — bring his expertise to a company which also uniquely integrates advertisement.