Kuza is quite brilliant. Designed specifically with basic feature phones in mind, it allows its users to build a web profile to showcase and advertise their businesses.
Advertising comes in the form of micro ads that Kuza members can create to advertise their products or services to other members in their area. To start, members have 100 Kuza Credits which allows for roughly five ads to be created, but credits can be boosted by completing certain tasks such as updating your profile or by uploading more than four photos. Kuza Credits can also be purchased by sending an SMS which costs R5.00 for a bundle of 50.
Profiles created with Kuza can accept recommendations for building reputation and allows users to print automatically generated business cards.
More than half of Africa’s one-billion people have a mobile phone. Last year a report by the GSM Association showed that the number of subscribers on the continent has grown almost 20% each year for the past five years. By the end of 2012, that rate of growth will put Africa’s mobile subscriber base at close to 735-million.
Despite these encouraging figures, information about local products and services are not readily available. Opportunities for emerging market entrepreneurs are are often time-critical and trade is very localised due to lack of efficient transport. Tradesmen rely on physical interaction to be able to showcase their work or goods. Reputation management is also important in gaining and keeping customers. That’s where Kuza fits in.
Kuza (Swahili for “flourish, grow”) Mobile, Inc. was founded by Pieter Nel and Andrew Maunder and is funded by Founder Collective from Boston and local angel investors. Nel and Maunder hopes to empower emerging market entrepreneurs through Kuza’s feature phone, location-based business platform.
Nel previously served as CTO of instant messaging service, Mxit where he was exposed to the world of mobile social networking in emerging markets. He is also a graduate of the MIT Sloan School’s Entrepreneurship Development Programme where Kuza was born out of Nel’s desire to innovate in the area of mobile commerce and to empower emerging market entrepreneurs. Kuza won the 2011 programme’s business plan competition in Cambridge, USA.
Kuza is currently running trials with “several thousand users” in Kenya and South Africa experimenting with various iterations to fine-tune the product-market fit.