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Some thoughts on the launch of WeChat in South Africa

Chat messaging software WeChat is up against some tough competition in Africa. Off the top of my head there is BBM, iMessage, Whatsapp, Facebook Chat, Mxit and 2Go that are ridiculously popular around the content. The service that started in China recently went from 50 million to 70 million users outside China in just six weeks. In China there are over 300 million people using the service. Now, they’re coming to Africa:

Five months after launching in the US, in addition to operations in South America, Europe, Australia and its native Asia, Tencent’s newest focus is Africa, specifically the continent’s biggest economy. With the help of its partner Naspers—which holds a 34% stake in the Chinese firm—Tencent is targeting South Africa’s 50 million people with a marketing campaign to promote WeChat.

WeChat competes directly with other well-known companies like Google, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and LINE, with a suite of functions geared towards voice, video and text messaging. Its CEO, Pony Ma, has said that “internationalization is Tencent’s dream,” and it scored a major marketing coup this week by launching WeChat commercials featuring the internationally beloved footballer Lionel Messi.

This is fairly exciting considering the potential for smartphone growth in Africa. Internationally smartphone purchases have overtaken feature phones and we’re sure to see this trend expand into Africa around 2016. Considering that WeChat provides voice chat I’d say the network operators should be worried.

They’ve started a global campaign that features football superstar, Lionel Messi. He joins their impressive team of ambassadors, including musicians, artists, fashion icons and VIPs:

If you’re keen on getting videos, voice messages and photos from Messi, you can – by downloading WeChat and adding his official account ID: MessiOfficial. You can also win a copy of Fifa 13 for any platform if you leave a comment below.

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WeChat is free and offers unique features like a “Hold to Talk” feature, video chat, as well as image, video and music sharing. You can also choose to communicate one-on-one, or within closed social networks through the “Moments” feature.

With the might of Tencent and Naspers behind them, WeChat can only be massive.

Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about what they have to offer.