Where is our data?
Last week I had an idea to pen an article concerning Econet and Cassava. These brands are in the top ten largest companies in Zimbabwe. The article required an id-depth analysis with numbers for an unbiased conclusion. I spent days trying to use Google search, our primary source of information and came up blank. I could only find figures from 2019 August as the latest ones. This is not just a case of Econet bashing, it is everywhere in the country.
Last night I tried researching on the most used mobile apps in Zimbabwe to try and analyse trends. The idea was to write an article on which app categories one should focus on to go viral in the Zimbabwean market. The best I could find was this article from TechZim from 2016. It is way too old. But thumbs up to the TechZim team for trying.
From here I looked around AppBrain and other platforms that collect data from Google Play Store. On one site I could find some limited statistics for South Africa, Tanzania and other countries I had no interest in. I scrapped the article. The data for South Africa was useless to me. I am of the opinion that comparing South Africa and Zimbabwe is not a fair comparison. South Africa has a way more advanced economy and the needs and wants of their citizens vary greatly from ours. For example, South Africans would just die without Uzalo and Imbewu the Seed. In Zimbabwe, we haven’t had any quality TV production since the days of Amakorokoza and we are doing okay for the most part. This leads us to another great idea, How many people still watch ZBC TV during prime time? No data.
This pattern is everywhere in Zimbabwe. A few months back, I wanted to look into how prices of basic commodities have been changing since 2019. There is no place that has a comprehensive list of any of these. I had to let go of the idea I had.
Of Potraz and their kin
There are some outfits that publish data on a regular basis. One such entity is Potraz. However, I do not trust or accept their figures and tend to use them with a very large dose of Lot’s wife. Age-X has been in the mobile app scene since 2015, collecting data and analysing it. We have collected data on just over 1,5 million people who use our products. It may be a small group with respect to the total national population but when doing comparisons, variations of 30% – 40% against the Potraz data is a bit too high. Statistically, one would expect 10% – 20% differences in the overall data.
The same applies to the British Council Next Generation Report. We tried reaching out to both The Council and the people behind the report to try and have a discussion on some of the figures in the report. We received a response from The Council, urging us to contact the people who compiled the report for them which we did but got no response.
These bodies are providing data, yes. But can it really be trusted? We need more sources to be able to get a comprehensive overview.
The lazy in me
I am a very lazy Homo Sapien. If I Google search something and do not find it on the first 5 results, I give up and move on. That is how data and information about Zimbabwe should be. Someone super intelligent like me may be able to dig into other sources until I find what I am looking for. Now imagine a lazier than me varsity student who is also less intelligent. They would be stuck on their research and next thing they are cooking figures. Not that that’s not a thing they do anyway.
So many missed opportunities
We had a conversation about supermarkets and data analysis recently. I am willing to bet that TM and OK Zimbabwe do not have aggregated data of which products trend during specific parts of the year. Collecting and analysing this sort of data would lead to better customer targeting and less spoilt products.
Econet would have fared better with a lot of their failed products like our competitor Ruzivo Digital Learning, Vaya, Kwese and Sasai if they had a proper data analytics team. Instead their business strategy is “throw mud at the wall, some of it is bound to stick.”
This article wold end up becoming 10,000 words if we went through all the missed opportunities in Zimbabwe.
We were very surprised when we partnered up with beauticians to create our failed Avon app. The Avon ladies and beauticians had diaries of which products sell well, when and to which group of women. Those ladies are far much more organised than the largest and most influential brands in Zimbabwe.