As Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria presents an attractive opportunity for foreign app developers. But software companies need to face facts now or face unpleasant surprises later. The Nigerian market, despite its size, youth, and hunger for apps, presents huge hurdles.
Not least is the ability of this market to understand the language of your app. Despite the nation’s commitment to English as the official language, most Nigerians do not speak it. For any business courting a global audience, finding new markets with localization, internationalization, and globalization is essential.
Our focus here will be on how best to tap the Nigerian market by translating the content in your software to the languages of Africa’s most populous nation.
1. How to help your mobile app penetrate Nigeria’s linguistic patchwork
According to government statistics, Nigeria boasts more than 180 million mobile subscribers and more than 260 connected lines, almost all of the GSM. Subscribers increased by a staggering 5 million in the last quarter. In a nation pushing 200 million that’s an impressive number, but the growth rate suggests that the saturation point has not yet been reached.
The reason the number of subscribers appears equal to the population is explained by multiple active SIM card ownership and mobile phone sharing. Still, Nigeria is thought to rank in the top 5 African countries in terms of mobile phone usage.
English is only spoken by at most 60 million people –most speaking Nigerian Pidgin, a dialect that only vaguely resembles the Queen’s English. Most Nigerians speak but a smidgen of Pidgin. So, at best, English is a compromise language for the more Westernized segments of the population. Most big app players ranking in the stores localize to Hausa for the local market.
Hausa is the main language of the country’s Muslims. 20 million people speak it natively, another 5-10 million as a second or third language. That’s just 10-15% of the country’s population! In second place is Igbo, with some 23 million native speakers. Yoruba comes in third with 20 million speaking it as a mother tongue. Then there is Kanuri, Fulfulde, Ijaw, Tiv, Ibibio, and Edo.
2. App Leaders and Translation Services for Engaging Nigeria’s Mobile Market?
If one looks at App Store ranking, both for the Google Play store and the Apple iOS store, the category is dominated by apps for communications, both global and homegrown. WhatsApp hovers at the top but the Ayoba! instant messenger is close behind in Android rankings.
The top 50 is full of IM, social media, video share, finance, and productivity apps. In eCommerce, the homegrown Jumia app, which recently went public, is one of the few local apps in the Top 20. But Nigeria is gaining deserved recognition as the fintech capital of Africa.
What is the best translation app on the continent? Is there a free translator app? Happily, the answer to both questions is the same.
The free-of-charge Google Translate, generally considered the leader among machine translation tools, is continually expanding and now supports Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, recently showed its commitment to the Nigerian market by piloting a program to provide free Wi-Fi connectivity in Lagos and additional cities. Nigeria’s Internet speeds rank third in Africa, trailing only Kenya and South Africa.
3. What Lessons Can App Developers Learn about Localizing for Nigeria?
We can draw four conclusions about where app dev opportunities are, and were not:
1. Nigerian subscribers are hungry for instant communication, productivity, and media. It’s a nation of small businesses and SMBs, all seeking salvation and sales on the mobile Internet.
2. Games are always popular, but they need to be tuned to local tastes. The use of localization services is key to gaming success.
3. The local infrastructure does not support apps requiring big bandwidth. These may run in big cities, and the situation may improve over time, but it won’t happen overnight. Think lightweight apps, or don’t bother — unless downtown Lagos and a few other hotspots are enough for you.
4. Support Hausa, but then think of the other dozen languages that are the mother tongue of tens of millions of young Nigerians. At least two other top 20 million speakers. Developers localizing in these languages may be big winners.
4. What should App Providers Gear Up to Localize for Nigeria’s Tribal Tongues
Foreign app developers can’t change the infrastructure or tastes of Nigeria, but they can adapt their apps to Nigerian audiences. Localization is the royal road to expansion in Nigeria, well-trodden by app development companies in other regions.
App translation and localization are supported by dozens of software applications and even more service providers. Consider website translation while you’re at it so that landing pages convert. As you translate app terms, it will be cost little to translate website terms as well.
The localization definition includes considering the cultural differences of different tribes. Why is localization important? The answer is obvious. Localizing to local tastes and languages is key to sustained engagement with your app. Localization companies will be updated with the latest translation technologies.
What is a localization strategy that will work in Nigeria? First, seek an expert translation company or localization company with experience in Africa, especially the Nigerian app marketplace. Translation services are straightforward to contract. Just request a free quote from 3-5 agencies.
Expect to pay by the number of words in your app, typically from $0.05 to $0.20/word per language. If your app has been localized for one or more languages, incremental costs of localization decrease as you add new ones.
A Nigerian company developing localization expertise, or an international company localizing for Nigerian tribal languages will have an advantage in the local market.
5. Bottom Line: What are the Prospects for Successful App Localization in Nigeria
The outlook for Nigeria’s rising smartphone ownership and slowly improving internet access is rising, with continuous developments in telecommunications infrastructure, phone performance, and app penetration. The variable most under app developers are the ability to localize for Nigerian languages, some used by populations exceeding most European nations.
This represents a big opportunity for app developers. Between Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba, that’s a whopping 70 million people or so just waiting for the local version of your killer app.
As is said in Hausa: Ku tafi dashi! In Igbo: Gaa maka ya! And in Yoruba: Lọ fun o!
Or, if you haven’t localized yet for Nigeria and must resort to English: Go for it!