8 mobile social media networks for emerging markets

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The development of MXit, South Africa’s incredibly successful answer to Facebook as been well covered in the past. MXit’s success has largely been down to the fact that its focus was directed at mobile phone users, and it found its niche in providing a cheap alternative to SMS.

So what other interesting mobile social networks are being developed in the emerging markets? We looked for networks that are experiencing rapid growth or show some innovation that is likely to capture a bigger following in the near future.

Here are eight social networks below that stand out, but if you have a favourite that you think deserves a mention, please feel free to add it in the comments section below and include a description of why you think it is going to go somewhere.

The Grid

You can’t mention MXit without mentioning The Grid, one of its biggest competitors. The Grid is Vodacom’s social network, launched in 2008 in South Africa. In 2009, The Grid expanded to cover both Tanzania and Nigeria and it is continuing to grow on a daily basis.

So what makes The Grid so fantastic? Apart from the usual IM capabilities that seem to be ubiquitous across social networks these days, The Grid makes heavy use of geolocation services.

This includes the ability to see exactly where your friends are located at any time, the ability to locate yourself on a map and then to find directions to selected locations, and the ability to find nearby places of interest such as local bars, night clubs, shops and movie theatres.

You don’t need GPS on your phone to make use of The Grid’s geolocation facilities however, because it relies on triangulation to determine your location. The services look great and The Grid’s application runs on most phones.


Veepiz aims to be a pan-African social network with a strong African flavour. Significantly, Veepiz has built a University Research Tool that encourages students to share educational material such as assignments, notes, term papers and exams.

Veepiz also developed the Afrostar application that provides a central location to find information about African celebrities. This widget allows you to track celebrity profiles, read news and watch music videos.
Finally, the Shop Central facility allows you to buy and sell things using the Veepiz portal. The Veepiz portal offers a range of translation options, even within its chat and IM services, so that it is likely to gain quite a cross-cultural following.


Motribe isn’t so much a social network in itself, as a platform to enable companies and individuals to quickly build their own personalized social networks.

In some ways, Motribe is to mobile social networking what WordPress is to a website. You sign-up and then use the provided tools to start customizing your social network. This means that you can quickly provide a whole range of common services such as IM, chatrooms, photo sharing, and mobile blogging with a few clicks.

For businesses and individuals thinking about building their own social networking facilities, Motribe is a blessing. You don’t need to do any development and you don’t need to worry about hosting. If you have any doubts, it’s built by one of the architects behind The Grid, and is also based in South Africa.


If you already have a LinkedIn profile, then you will know how valuable it is in terms of keeping up with your business contacts and relationships. LinkedAfrica is trying to build something similar, but with a focus on African business.

LinkedAfrica provides localized job listings and business information. Of course, being a mobile social network, it is likely to garner a stronger following across Africa, where many people rely solely on their mobile handsets as their gateway onto the internet.


In Africa, this service originally started under the Yeigo brand. Its recent acquisition by Swiss-owned company, Telfree, is an indicator that Yeigo was making roads in the telecommunications industry.

Telfree provides a versatile communications suite that integrates the most popular communications platforms to be accessible via one application. This means that all of your Facebook, MSN and Skype contacts are stored in a single address book, allowing you to IM all of your contacts via the Telfree network.

Telfree also offers a Push Call service that sets a single rate for all of your calls regardless of your location, doing away with roaming fees. Calls to other Telfree customers are entirely free, just like Skype-to-Skype.

Telfree is the traveller’s mobile social network, which will lower costs if you frequently cross borders, and will help to keep all of your communications tools in one interface.


The mig33 community spreads across 200 countries globally, and has partners in almost every country you can think of. First released in December 2005, mig33 was initially designed as a very cheap instant messaging platform, but through the addition of a huge range of social networking features and a very aggressive marketing and partnership strategy, mig33 now has over 40 million users around the world.

Mig33 provides merchant services, cheap international phone call packages, chat rooms, games and virtualized gifts. The service also gets special mention because it has strong partnerships in India, Indonesia and South Africa and is a massively successful mobile social network, operating on a global scale.


Looking for a date? Streetspark is an international service that is now available in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Denmark, Netherlands and USA.

Streetspark makes use of information about you, gathered from other social networking sites like Facebook, Pandora, Twitter and Foursquare. The service looks for other individuals within the network that may share interests with you and sends each of you a ‘spark’, or message.

You can then start chatting using their application, and if you hit it off, you can meet up offline. A nice feature of the application is that it can use GPS or triangulation to locate you and find matches that are close by.

Furthermore, if you frequently visit the same locations and another Streetspark member is doing the same thing, it will put you in touch. Originally developed in the UK, Streetspark is taking the world by storm and is expanding into all emerging markets.


Vshkole (At School) is a social networking site in Russia that has been around for some time. Last year, Vshkole added a mobile version to its interface and since it added GPS facilities, it has been making waves across the Russian speaking community.

Vshkole is interesting because it is a community built entirely around a popular Russian TV series. Users can communicate by phone, make friends, track down schoolmates, save, view and comment on photos and videos, blog and microblog, meet new people and download new episodes of the series.

The geolocation capability built into this network offers the user a list of other users who happen to be in or around the same area, and a list of nearby places to hang out and have fun, like movie theaters, discos, restaurants and clubs. Not particularly innovative, but interesting for the fact that it is actually a relatively large community built around a single TV show.

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  • Anonymous

    “i’m not a nerdy phone user” (just a cr@ppletard) … and yet here you are, talking about your experience with an iphone and an n9… ! 

  • Juditha

    I had it for a week – did not like it at all. When I held it – it felt too plastic, reminded me of a cheap car part. Of course it is personal – I am a standard user that buys phones because it’s aesthetically appealing – hoped the N9 would’ve done the same as the iPhone in terms of aesthetics, but it failed. On that point, as a consumer – I won’t buy it!

  • Anonymous

    agree, clearly this person has never touched the phone. just another cr@ppletard troll with no brains.

  • Juditha

    Wow such ‘apple’ hate – I still have my iPhone – love it. Was just testing the N9 – anyway i’ve checked out your profile you’re a hater so that’s it from me. You hate iPhone – I hate N9 – we’re all winners here :)

  • chris

    Maybe it’s personal preference or you were using a fake. I have one sitting on my desk right now and there is no way that 99% of it can be described as a cheap car part. There are one ot two things I don’t like but it feels better than any Sony, Motorola or HTC I’ve ever used. Perhaps you like bling and bits stuck on as a measure of quality but being a minimalist, the plain one piece design is exactly the kind of thing that appeals to me. I’ve dropped this on a hard floor three times now and it is unmarked. I doubt most phones would survive without a scratch like that (although I’ve never dropped an iPhone!)

  • Wraggieone

    Your way off mate!!! Scary that people might just read this and write the N9 off. Amazing device, beautiful, practical and simple to use. What ever you do don’t let this review be the last thing you read about the N9. Check it out.

  • jl

    my god…stupid review!! how can meego be outdated ?? its simply more simple to use than an iphone or android….. N9 is far away the best mobile today, the only one that gives us gps without internet connection (so you can use it without roaming outside your country!!! gps of apple can be used only in your country….stupidity). The only negative point is the folders…and its not so important… and in a few weeks we will be able to run android apps on it…….. people should stop thinking apple is god…

  • Pkv2

    nokia fired 1000+ meego developers just before the alliance with MS, just think about its future

  • Pkv2

    and it is the first and last meego phone from nokia

  • chris

    Who cares if it is Nokia’s last phone as long as it’s good. People are obsessed by this. This didn’t matter five years ago. Why start worrying about it now?

  • V Morkoxbox

    I willl kill you!!!

  • Satyyri

    I can’t understand why people go to forums and say this is bad phone, I have this and this don’t buy this one. If person have some understanding and own will he or she could make decision by him or herself. Of course they have to try the thing or read many reviews. But I don’t say to my friends that you wife is bad looking or like that you wife must have bigger tits. Everybody likes what she or he likes. And If somebody make opinion, he or she to my opinion have to say what that opinion based on.

  • Anonymous

    where does it say i hate iphones? can you read? i have many more likes than you…. i am the real winner.

    just as a matter of interest, on what basis were you able to have and test an n9 for 1 week……?? can you share with us all ???

  • Anonymous

    hey crappletard fanboi, you’d better buy an iphone 4s before it becomes a collectors’ item – when samsung starts asserting their dual antenna switching patent rights…

  • Vieras

    Your imagination.

    Don’t need to be finnish to notice that this article sucks ass and the writer is an ignorant noob.

  • Illo

    This is an idiot review!!!

  • Harry Finch

    After my bad experiences with Android (battery drain, lag ,questionable long-term privacy) I am very pleased to see a phone like this.

    iPhone would obviously be an option, too. However, it has become the symbol of things I don’t want to be associated with: ignorance and lack of taste (yes, taste doesn’t necessarily equal to what all tabloid celebrities and teens wave in their hands)

    Just watch this video and you get a feel of the devotion that has gone into this phone:

    Now, that is something I call “taste”.

  • Dan Weber


    -This seems to be the only commented article on your remote website.

    -On your Twitter-account you praise Apple and bash all other brands.

    Dude, that was a nice one.
    Big fat provocation. :D

    You really know how to draw attention for a moment.
    However, those advertisements at the top aren’t still getting much visibility in the long run…

  • Xari3l

    I feel the writer owes the general public an apology for his utterly incompetent and uninformed article.

  • http://grantmcwilliams.com grantmasterflash

    I was going to post a comment pointing out the reviewers obvious ignorance but you folks have done such a great job I don’t have to.

  • Rasmus Kristensen

    well thats all bullshit. “First and last meego phone”.. Its not even MeeGo, its Maemo6/Meego Harmattan, so its basically the difference between Froyo and Gingerbread.

    Do realize that MeeGo Harmattan (on the N9) isnt the same MeeGo that is now forming into Tizen? They are completely different things. The name does however make it very confusing to talk about the two MeeGo products…

    Maemo5 was also the only phone with maemo5, first and last. But there was maemo4 behind it. It wasnt a big deal. Same with Maemo6/Meego Harmattan. Its not a big deal if its the last or first or both.

  • Rasmus Kristensen

    Okay, look at the N900 once nokia abandoned it. Check out CSSU, the usermade FW updates. The future of N9 is basically PR 1.1 coming shortly with 3500 chages. PR 1.2 is a featurepacked update which isnt finalized yet. Nokia will support the device until 2015.

    Im thinking MAYBE, just MAYBE, I might have a new phone by 2015.

    Its not a fucking house or a 2milliondollar car. Its a phone. You will replace it before 2015 unless youre insane. Since the N97 was released (oh the horror), Ive personally had the N97, the N900, the N8, the SGS2 and the N9.

  • Rasmus Kristensen

    theres no USBotg yet.

  • Rasmus Kristensen

    Disregarding the applehater:

    If you are refering to the iconset you can change it to whatever you prefer.

    Ive had the phone in my hands for a month now, and while its a matter of taste, I love the feel and design of the phone. It feels sturdy and solid, sleek and elegant. Unlike the Iphone4 which feels heavy and fragile, and isnt as comfortable to handle.

    Again; if the “childlike” thing you mentioned is about icons and graphics these are all changeable.

    Also, marketing to teenagers is what Iphone does best, which makes what you claim very ironic :) .

  • Anonymous

    Juditha also said the phone looked cheap. It is very obvious from this comment that he/she has not ever held one in their hands.  The device looks and feels pure quality.  It actually doesn’t even feel like polycarbonate… it feels like some space age anodised aluminium or something.  It is superb to hold. The device exudes quality all over.

  • Rasmus Kristensen

    The polycarbonate doesnt feel like plastic in the plastic sense at all, it feels like brushed aluminum. Thats basically a fact, not subjective. If you feel differently then you have abnormal connotations.

  • Pete

    the most retarded review i have seen in my life!

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