Opera, known for its data saving browser opera mini is investing Sh10 billion ($100m) in its Nairobi and Lagos offices in which it plans to hire 100 staff.
The company says it has more than 100 million users in Africa and that explains why it is sinking more in the continent whose mobile and internet penetration are rising fast.
Kenya has the cheapest and fastest internet in Africa while Nigeria has the largest population and fairly well developed internet market which could explain the choice of the two cities given that they are regional hubs of the east and west.
“We are definitely interested in more markets,” Jan Standal, head of global marketing and communications, told TechCrunch in an interview. “There’s nothing preventing us from initiating an extension at any time.”
Browser to content aggregator
The company said that it is changing its role from a browser to being a content aggregator. “We’re stepping up [because] the purpose of the browser is evolving,” he said. “Particularly around news publishing, the browser is one of the main gateways to consumption. If you want to reach people [in African countries] you have to work with web browsers… and we’re changing our role from being a browser to content aggregator,” it was quoted by Techcrunch.
The company had earlier this year revealed that the Chinese parent company Kunlun Tech had developed a team to bring AI to the core of its services in what will see it diversify from its long focus on media with its web browsers.
News and content distribution is high on the order for its AI tech, which will increase the personalization of news that the company’s browser surfaces for users. In Africa, the company said it wants to deliver “personalized and localized content” to users.
Beyond working with content producers — Standal stressed a focus on “premium content” — Opera plans to ramp up its work with OEMs and operators to bring more users on to its platform, and double down on its data optimization technology to help offset the comparatively expensive cost of data in Africa. It also began running TV ads in Africa to raise awareness of the service, and what users can do besides just browsing the web.
Beyond those established gatekeepers, Opera has its eye on startups that fit with its mission of growing digital audiences in Africa. Standal hinted that technology around payments is one area of interest, but he declined to provide specific details around plans for investments or acquisitions.
“This is the direction we’re interested in but we don’t have any announcements at this point,” he added.
Opera is already working on widening its content reach in Africa — it initially began on general news and sports — and it has adopted a similar approach in other parts of the world. In India, for instance, it introduced Cricket alerts earlier this year.