The Reality of Developing an App in South Africa

Posted on October 22nd, 2018
Thought Leaders

I am in a WhatsApp group of phenomenal female entrepreneurs called The Lionesses. The group was formed after we had completed The Lionesses of Africa incubator programme sponsored by Standard Bank and Lionesses of Africa.

One day, in our Lionesses WhatsApp group, one of the members asked how much is an app; i.e. how much does it cost to develop an app?

Now being from the tech industry, I was amused by this question as it was not the first time I had heard this question and I know that no two apps are the same. The question is similar to someone asking how long is a piece of string or how much is tradition? (Tradition, in the South African fashion context, is a jargon for a traditional or cultural attire).

Those in the fashion industry can understand that one cannot merely request a fashion designer or seamstress to make you a custom/bespoke outfit without the designer or seamstress having a thorough understanding of your unique requirements. The how much is tradition question is a confusing to fashion designers as the how much is an app to software developers.

There has been an ongoing debate about the actual cost of a mobile app or what is the acceptable rate that software development companies should charge. The question then raised is, to whom must the rate be acceptable, the customer or the software development company?

There are certain factors that need to be considered during the software development process, such as the user experience, the target market, the user journey, the purpose of the app, the budget, platforms used for the development, the experience of the software development company, will it be web app or a mobile app and what data is to be collected and for what purpose; to name a few.

Let us explore the two of the factors:

User Experience

The best apps or software products on the markets are those where the development team has understood the end-users’ needs and how the end-user needs to have a pleasant experience on your app.

A great end-users experience means that you have end-users that will use the app frequently, end-users that stay on the app for long periods and most importantly end-users that become your brand ambassadors and recommend your app to their networks. Networks that you may not have access to.

The user experience factor, applies to apps that are developed specifically for your business and those that have been bought online and then customised for your business’ specific needs. Design Thinking comes in handy outlining the user experience design process.


In the same manner that having a bigger budget will get you a 2 litre German-engineered car or a house seven-bedroomed house, the same applies to mobile apps.

At times customers tend to want to squeeze many features for a small price. Customers and their development team need to collectively decide which business processes or features are business critical and need to be part of the first deliverable or MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and which features will be added at a later stage. This will help in structuring your budget accordingly.

The above mentioned is merely a tip of the iceberg when it comes to quantifying the cost of developing your mobile app. It is imperative that thorough research is conducted and have a development team that can advise you on how to achieve your desired goal; that is your mobile app and most importantly answer the question of how much is tradition, or in this case how much does a mobile app cost?