Arifu and SOMO partner to train entrepreneurs in Africa with Infobip’s WhatsApp Business API

Infobip, a global cloud communications platform that enables businesses to build connected customer experiences across all stages of the customer journey at scale, has delivered a WhatsApp for Business API solution to a Kenya-based educational partnership – Arifu-SOMO – that focuses on entrepreneurship training.

Earlier this year, Arifu, a platform that provides digital educational content to low-income and hard to reach communities, partnered with SOMO, an accelerator that supports entrepreneurs in low-income communities.

The partnership delivers SOMO’s content on Arifu’s platform, focusing on training in the areas of agricultural good practice, entrepreneurship, financial literacy and has just expanded into the area of insurance. Currently, the initiative has reached over 1.5 million people across Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Zambia.

Mandeep Birdi, Chief Commercial Officer at Arifu, explains that the organisation has used SMS as its main channel to disseminate content to trainees since its inception in 2015. However, the increase in smartphone penetration and data usage across Africa prompted Arifu to look at expanding its digital channels to include WhatsApp.

Marko Reis, Regional Manager for East Africa at Infobip, says that the partnership between Infobip and Arifu-SOMO, is underpinned by the digital transformation strategy of the initiative.

“It has been a great pleasure to work with Arifu-SOMO on this project. The partnership has a large footprint in Africa and the move from SMS to WhatsApp will yield more positive results and higher adoption due to the rich media content the platform enables. We are expecting the WhatsApp API solution to empower more disadvantaged people and give rise to a new spirit of entrepreneurship in the continent.”

Marko Reis, Regional Manager for East Africa at Infobip

Beyond SMS

“We felt that increasing the channel beyond SMS to other rich media channels made sense. As such, we expanded to Telegram and Facebook, and also adopted WhatsApp. However, we realised that we need to work with a communications specialist that could assist us with a WhatsApp Business API solution. With Infobip having a local presence in Kenya, it made sense to work with them as our WhatsApp Business API partner.”

Mandeep Birdi, Chief Commercial Officer at Arifu

In addition, says Mandeep Birdi, Infobip’s global presence also made it an attractive choice as Arifu looks to eventually expand its services to other parts of the world, such as India, Asia and LATM.

“One of the main reasons we are turning to rich media channels is that we can add graphic images and animated videos to enhance the learning journey beyond text-based messaging. Aside from WhatsApp Business API, we also have some other services below the WhatsApp layer, and will look into additional platforms that Infobip can offer to enhance what we have on the WhatsApp.”

Mandeep Birdi

SOMO founder and CEO Amelia Hopkins Phillips notes that WhatsApp is the most widely used chat app across Africa, with Kenya and Nigeria already seeing a 70% WhatsApp penetration rate among their smartphone users. Businesses on the continent are increasingly seeing the benefits of using WhatsApp Business API as part of adopting omnichannel strategies.

Digital transformation, she explains, has accelerated over the past six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and this has also driven the adoption of smart devices in Africa.

“A lot of our training used to be done in person, but COVID-19 has forced us to transition many of our programmes to digital channels. The fact that people have had to adopt smart devices during this period has driven our transition to a large extent.”

SOMO founder and CEO Amelia Hopkins Phillips

Hopkins Phillips says that providing learning content over WhatsApp makes sense, as it is better suited for this purpose than SMS or accessing it online.

“Pulling up a web browser and streaming or downloading video content uses a lot of data and storage, so being able to access this material through WhatsApp makes it a lot more accessible to a lot more people.”

SOMO founder and CEO Amelia Hopkins Phillips

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