New Business Model to Save African CyberCafes – Higher Bandwidth, Higher Margins, Higher Transactions

Posted on June 13, 2011

This heading is the title of an article published this week by Balancing Act which makes for interesting reading.

The basic observation in the article is that research in Tanzania has shown that more and more people are using mobile phones to access the internet than are going to cybercafes for these services. However with a bit more research it turned out that “cybercafé owners didn’t have much business acumen” and were contributing to their own demise as much as mobile technology is.

Now this struck a chord with me as at Matamba we are developing our own cybercafé model for deployment to rural schools and communities. The business is called ComTainer-Labs and it is most gratifying to see that in our business planning model we anticipated this kind of problem.

Our model has as a fundamental part, the identifying, training and on-going mentoring of our entrepreneurs. We thought it was an obvious strategy, but that is less about us being clever, and more about the ability of Zimbabweans to generally see things from a slightly different angle.

Bandwidth and other tech issues aside, it strikes me that cybercafés are places where people congregate to communicate with other people, and it’s people that such a business will live and die by. It therefore makes sense to focus primarily on investing in the people.

This particular project is at a very early stage for us, but the more I read and the more people I talk to about it, the clearer it becomes that this “impact investing” opportunity is both an essential service and lucrative if tightly managed.

We’re looking to build our first two prototype ComTainer-Labs as soon as possible and this blog is as much an appeal to you to help us with the project as it is a commentary on the world around us.

If you want to know more about this have a look at the ‘current investments” section on our web page and then get in touch. This is a big plan with a big vision that needs big energy and even bigger bucks, but as we have started to say, we are also Empowering communities, Transforming lives, and Creating wealth.

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