Start-up Afrozaar merges mobile and cloud - TechCentral

Start-up Afrozaar merges mobile and cloud

Richard Cheary

Cape Town-based start-up Afrozaar thinks there’s a big future in merging cloud computing (computing on the Internet) and mobile telephony to offer hosted mobile applications to the corporate market. And it thinks it will soon be big business across the African continent.

Software developers Dirk le Roux, Richard Cheary, Marco Theart and Tim Bielawski started the company nine months ago to profit from what they believe will be one of the next growth areas for cloud computing.

Before starting Afrozaar, which is self-funded, the four men worked on IT development projects at Woolworths, Pick n Pay and Old Mutual, among others. Already, Afrozaar has several high-profile clients, including Cell C, Old Mutual and Media24, a unit of Naspers.

The company develops cloud-based mobile applications for Android devices, for the Apple iPhone, and for tablet computers, including the iPad.

To deliver these applications as cloud-based services, the company has aligned itself with Google, allowing its customers to host business apps developed by Afrozaar on the Web giant’s open, cloud-based enterprise computing platform.

“Google’s cloud platform allows us to be proactive and respond quickly to market needs and trends,” says Cheary.

The apps the company builds range from full-fledged corporate offerings, to packages that incorporate the Google Docs online productivity suite.

One of the company’s flagship products is an application called MySubs Mobile, built in collaboration with media logistics company On the Dot, which allows people to subscribe to magazines, newspapers and digital titles.

Afrozaar wants to take mobile applications to the rest of the continent. One of SA’s largest financial institutions — Cheary says he can’t name the company — has hired Afrozaar to develop a mobile financial solution for use across Africa.

“Mobile cloud solutions are perfect in the African context,” says Cheary. He says it could help offset the lack of development and technical skills in many markets. And one of the biggest challenges is Africa’s lack of technology infrastructure. “Using cloud-based mobile applications means that we can overcome that.”

The company has some challenges, though, one of which is convincing companies that cloud computing is a viable alternative to more traditional — and expensive — server options.

Another challenge is the cost of bandwidth. With some applications being media rich, Afrozaar has had to spend time perfecting the download manager that serves its applications to users.

“It’s going to be a competitive environment, but I think we have managed to carve out a niche for ourselves using Google’s enterprise architecture,” says Cheary.  — Candice Jones, TechCentral

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  1. Given the domination of Nokia in Africa – an iPhone and Android based solution will be somewhat of a challenge.

  2. @Ian normally I would 100% agree with you on that, but it seems that there are some niche markets opening up in SA/Africa. You wont believe the amount of Zimbabwean’s based in ZIM and doing business here in SA that have iPhone’s and Samsung Galaxy’s; also with Econet rolling out there new 3G network in Zim I think there is a going to be a surprise jump in smartphone ( Android, iPhone etc. ) uptake and companies like Afrozaar will be well placed and experienced enough to make a bit of cash off of these opportunities here and in Africa.

    Granted the opportunities are not going to be as massive as in the US, UK etc. but for a 5 man team with low overheads etc. it makes for a good solid business and a bit of cash in the bank!

  3. @Rich: Thanks for your views on growth and potential opportunities for companies like ourselves. I do feel that nobody should be confused with lots of opportunity and growth potential being a simple journey – the enterprise mobile and cloud future is an unchartered for many, and needs to be navigated intelligently.

    The African continent has seen many scramble for it’s market and resources in the past – we need to reference lessons learned with more market respect and technical scalability. Africa needs the best mobile and cloud solutions implemented that support an open standard approach to allow for social and business communities to work well with each other.

  4. @Cheary great article, there is huge growth in SA on android and in Kenya the impact of one Android handset (Ideos) has shaken up the Mobile internet market. Making use of cloud based technologies saves time, effort and infrastructure investment. The African market is filled with very talented innovators who can all benefit from these types of services while they focus on innovation that is core to their businesses.

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