Posted Feb 20, 2015 by Jon Russell (@jonrussell)
Tencent has made its first investment in Africa under the banner of its WeChat messaging service. WeChat Africa, a joint venture between Tencent and Naspers, announced an investment in M4JAM (Money For Jam), a South Africa-based mobile job service that connects to WeChat.
The service is much like the TaskRabbit of old, in so much that companies push “small” jobs out to the M4JAM’s community of users, who respond via their phone to apply/accept jobs. From the company’s website:
M4JAM is a solution that connects Brands who want to get jobs done to Jobbers who are able to complete the jobs using their mobile devices. Simply put – by breaking bigger jobs up into smaller jobs of 10 minutes or less, microjobbing is a win-win situation for Brands and Jobbers.
The company didn’t disclose the value of the deal, but, strategically, it is notable. Tencent has put large sums of money into companies and services that connect with WeChat in China — it is an investor in taxi-hailing service Did Dache and online retailer JD.com, two multi-billion dollar services integrated into its chat app — and it has employed a similar, scaled-down approach here.
WeChat has close to 500 million monthly active users. Tencent doesn’t break that number down by location, but it is fair to assume that the vast majority are in China, where WeChat is the top social network.
Tencent has had a focus on Africa for some time, like rivals Line, WhatsApp and others. These companies believe that the potential growth of smartphones, which will serve as the primary internet access point for most of the continent, make mobile messaging apps potentially very powerful platforms. Investing in services like M4JAM could help WeChat get an edge over its rival messaging apps, whilst also allowing startups themselves to tap into the app’s userbase.
“[M4JAM’s] disruptive business model has turned ‘business as usual’ on its head from both the end consumer and the brand’s perspective, resulting in a rapid and overwhelming demand from both users and companies to be on the platform,” said Brett Loubser, Head of WeChat Africa, in a statement.
It isn’t clear how popular WeChat is in Africa, or South Africa in particular, but now that it has an investment in the region under its belt, it will be interesting to see whether Tencent pursues other deals to grow its ecosystem and appeal to new users. Loubser previously told Memeburn that the messaging app could not succeed in Africa unless it localizes its brand, which suggests there’s much more to come.