Claim: Ex-presidential aspirant and CEO of IPI Solutions, Adamu Garba, recently claimed that Crowwe, an online interaction app built by his company, is the first social networking platform built in Nigeria and Africa in a post on his Facebook page.
Verdict: The claim is false. There have been other social networking platforms built in Africa as early as 2005.
Since its release in July 2020, the Crowwe app, developed by Gloomme Business Connection, a subsidiary of IPI Group Limited, has witnessed a lot of backlash from the Nigerian populace.
On Google play store and the Apple app store, Crowwe attracted a lot of disparaging remarks in the review section, largely due to Garba’s stance on controversial issues in the country’s socio-political landscape.
An example is Garba’s stance on the Federal Government’s ban on microblogging platform, Twitter in Nigeria.
While defending the government’s action, Garba had described the American microblogging and social networking service as “an insurrectionist tool” capable of undermining the sovereignty of the country.
Also, in October 2020, during the nationwide #EndSARS protest, which was aimed at disbanding a unit of the Nigerian police force, Garba took a controversial stance by alleging that the protest had transformed into a political agitation capable of breaking law and order in the country while threatening to sue Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, for retweeting a link for donations to support the movement.
On June 14, 2021, it was observed the app was deleted from the Google Play store. Many had attributed this removal to the damning comments and low ratings on the app page, but the ex-presidential aspirant claimed that he was the one who asked Google to take down the app.
In an interview with Punch, Garba claimed he asked Google to take down the app from Google Playstore because he needed to update the code.
Garba stated that it was in a bid to make some improvements that he asked Google to take down the app.
On June 15, 2021, Garba took to his Facebook page to give a personal explanation as to why there are a ‘million’ requests for his app to be taken off the play store but maintained his former stance that the absence of the app on the play store had not resulted from low ratings.
Garba listed five “crimes”, which he said, might be responsible for the backlash the app has received.
However, in his listings, Garba mentioned that one of his “crime” was that his company built the first social networking application in Africa.
His words, “…third Crime is that my company build the first social networking application in not just Nigeria but Africa, apparently, it did not suit the narrative that above all else, it was the Fulani man’s company that build (sic) the app…”
In verifying the claim, Dubawa searched the internet for similar platforms that had been built in Africa over the years.
It was first discovered that as early as 2005, South Africa already had a social networking application known as Mxit which was built by Herman Heunis.
Heunis was born in a rural area in Namibia. He moved to South Africa where he went to Stellenbosch University in 1977 and started his vocation in computer programming 3 years after.
He founded Mxit in 2005, growing it from a small company with a team of eight into an African technological giant with more than 100 employees with users in more than 120 countries around the world.
South Africa, Mxit, a free instant messaging application with an estimated 7 million users, was described as the most popular local social networking platform.
Mxit, just like other instant messaging apps, can receive messages offline. For feature phones, they have group chats, chat tabs, and offline messages, all on data-light (technology that consumes 10 times less mobile bandwidth).
For iOS 7, Mxit 7 has features like doodle and voice chat.
The company was however sold off in 2012 to Alan Knott-Craig Jr. It later closed down in 2015.
Despite being a web-based social networking platform, Afroterminal was founded in 2009 by two Africans in diaspora, Chioma Anyanwu, and Charles Akpom.
It was an African-focused social network that would provide a single online platform for Africans around the world to connect, share news and relevant information regarding the continent, discuss ideas for the continent’s socio-economic development and build virtual and personal relationships over the long term.
It allowed memberships from diverse countries – with regular members hailing from all 53 African countries.
Another social networking platform built in Africa was 2go. The application was developed by 2go Interactive (Pty) Ltd in Cape Town, South Africa. It was created in 2007 by some students of the University of Witwatersrand.
It supports over 1,500 different devices, including feature phones, in addition to Android, BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry 10 smartphones.
2go is a chat-based mobile social network targeting users in emerging markets, particularly in Africa.
2go users message each other for free, meet new people, and share updates and photos with friends and family.
In Nigeria, Yookos a Christian-focused website was founded in 2011 by the leader of Christ Embassy International, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, to convey spiritual messages among members of the Christ Embassy, in Africa. However, it penetrated beyond Africa as traffic steadily increased.
The website, thereafter, became popular and accommodated more people. In 2012, there appears to have been a deliberate push to extend the social network’s subscriber base beyond religion.
Yookos was later developed into apps for smartphone devices where users can join communities, meet new people and follow topics of interest.
It also affords users a platform to buy and sell in their local marketplaces.
By 2015, the KingChat App was built as a fast, simple, and personal smartphone messenger that allows users to send messages. It allows users to send and receive messages, pictures, audio, location, and video messages.
From research, there have been many other social media applications built by Nigerians in Nigerians and Africa, even though some of them stopped being operational after a while, many others are still functional.
Crowwe is not Africa’s first social networking platform. There have been several social media applications built in Africa since 2005. However, there are possibilities, it is the first social media app built in Nigeria with an additional online payment system.
The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2021 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with SaharaReporters to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.