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Meet Moya Messenger – WhatsApp’s Data-Free Rival in South Africa

Moya Messenger is the world’s first data-free mobile messaging app that is rapidly becoming a rival to WhatsApp in South Africa.

Developed by biNu, an Australian company that launched its services in South Africa in 2014, Moya Messenger was released in South Africa in July and instantly attracted lots of users, enabling them to communicate without excessive data costs.

South Africa has 18 million active social media users, almost half of whom spend most of their time on WhatsApp. WhatsApp has almost taken Mxit, Blackberry Messenger (BBM) and WeChat out of the picture in South Africa, as it is the most convenient and affordable mobile messaging app in the country.

However, despite WhatsApp’s dominance in South Africa, Moya Messenger is becoming a real rival to the app, since it provides a similar messaging experience but allows users to send unlimited text messages at no data cost, even when they have no airtime or data balance on their mobile devices.

Moya Messenger definitely looks promising in South Africa, with the cell phone market in the country currently being the 4th fastest growing in the world, raising at a rate of 50% per year, not to mention that the country’s IT industry is booming at a breakneck pace. South African IT market is the largest IT market in Africa by value.

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According to The Information Technology Industry in South Africa 2017 report, the South African IT sector grew at 4% of GDP for 2017.

These statistics only prove that South Africa is a fertile ground for any startup that’s willing to look beyond. We’ve already seen many VPN services making strides to establish their servers in the country. This is not too surprising as VPN technology is primarily used to improve online security and privacy; and as we’ve seen over the years, the developing IT industries need security solutions, as at this stage the whole infrastructure could still be very susceptible to virtual security threats.

With an impressive overall growth, it’s only a question of time when we’ll see other big tech player making moves in South Africa.

Moya Messenger Functionalities

The South African challenger to WhatsApp offers data-free unlimited texting and data-free group chat, high security with automatic end-to-end encryption and automatic contact discovery for quickly connecting with Moya Messenger users.

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However, there are a few drawbacks to the app. Message attachments are not data-free, which is where WhatsApp definitely wins, at least for now. Moya users can send attachments like photos, videos, and documents, but they will be preemptively warned that data costs will be incurred, so they can either allow that or switch to WiFi.

Also, for the users to actually use the app, they need to switch mobile data on. Furthermore, to send data-free text messages, the users must use specific mobile networks that are compatible with Moya Messenger. This means that they can only communicate through the app with the users in South Africa who use those mobile networks, as Moya Messenger is not available outside the country.

Moya Messenger has a reverse billing agreement with four South African major mobile network operators – MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telcom – which means that biNu will pay those mobile network operators for all the mobile messaging data costs.

Another drawback to Moya Messenger is that the app is currently available only for Android devices, so 20% of iPhone users in South Africa are not yet able to use the app.

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Will Moya Messenger Beat WhatsApp in South Africa?

Moya Messenger exhibits significant benefits, primarily because users can communicate with one another at zero data costs, not to mention that they don’t need to load airtime or purchase data bundles to send text messages. As such, Moya presents a threat to WhatsApp, but it’s still not so clear whether or not it has what it takes to become the dominant messaging app in the country.

Nevertheless, over 10000 users have already installed the app, and the number keeps rising with each coming day. Since data tariff is very high in South Africa, it’s not a stretch to say that the app will become quite popular in the country. It has enormous potential, and more and more people realize it.

Moya Messenger is rapidly gaining a strong foothold in the South African market, but we are yet to see what the future will bring for the app. Stay tuned.

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Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan.

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