Norwegian firm Opera will be developing and launching its products in Africa.
While this “Africa First” strategy is not unheard of, it is rare among Western-born technology firms. However, the early commitment suggests what the company’s vision will be.
The launch of Opera News, an artificial intelligence powered application, was the first indication of the company making good on this “Africa First” strategy.
This came weeks after Opera made its first inroads into fintech through Opay, a web-based payments platform available initially in Kenya.
These diversifications fit in with a vision where Opera’s browser products acts as a gateway for users to the Internet, where they can be exposed to a range of other products and services.
Although Africa does not have the biggest customer base for Opera, the company sees a higher growth trajectory.
The company’s mobile browser, Opera Mini, is already popular on the continent, partly due to its data-saver features.
“We see the growth potential in Africa very high. We are quite well known here,” said the company’s VP of product marketing and communications, Jan Standal, in an interview.
Last year Opera announced that it was planning to invest Sh10.3 billion ($100 million) in Africa’s digital economy. The company has not revealed the details on how these funds will be used. However, Opay is part of these investments.
Recently, the company hired former KCB #ticker:KCB executive Eddie Ndichu to drive its fintech activity in the region, ahead of opening an office in Nairobi.
Uptake figures on Opay have not been made public. However, Opera has been relatively freer in revealing some key figures on the Opera News application.
While piloting the application in five countries over the Christmas period, the company gained about 100,000 users within the space of two weeks, Mr Standal said.
The news application was initially piloted in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. It is now available in 23 markets, including Francophone nations.