MTN-backed Ayoba app targets disgruntled WhatsApp users

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Ayoba CEO Nolan Wolff.
Ayoba CEO Nolan Wolff.

Amid growing concerns over privacy issues on social media, MTN-backed African app Ayoba is touting its instant messaging platform as secure, family-friendly and safe for younger users.

The mobile network operator says with Ayoba, which is active in 17 countries, users can send and receive encrypted messages, share photos, videos, files, voice notes and their location, and can also subscribe to live channels.

There has been growing discontent with social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter recently, with users complaining about relentless privacy violations, surveillance, political bias and alleged manipulation.

WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging app, sparked the recent public outcry after Android and iOS users received an in-app notification about its new policy, which allows WhatsApp to share certain data with Facebook – an option that users previously had a chance to opt out of.

Now, MTN is stepping up efforts to capture some of the dissatisfied social media users in Africa.

The telco says Ayoba is focused on protecting users’ privacy and security.

“It is not possible for messages in the app to be read by anyone else or to be shared with any third-parties, including MTN. The app features peer-to-peer private messaging, which is end-to-end encrypted. Ayoba treats data with the utmost care and respect in line with its privacy policy.

“Localised content is available through [Ayoba live] channels that aim to entertain, educate and empower communities. Since 2020, as COVID-19 spread across the world, Ayoba’s daily lifeline data allocations on MTN’s networks in most markets allowed users free connections with family and provided them with zero-rated access to credible information through special COVID-19 channels,” says MTN.

Voted “Best Mobile App of the Year” at the Africa Digital Awards 2020, Ayoba is a free to use platform; however, users need data to send messages and files.

Led by Nolan Wolff as CEO, Ayoba was launched in 2019. The app supports over 20 local languages spoken across MTN’s markets, including isiZulu, isiXhosa, Pidgin, Yoruba, Swahili, Hausa, French, Arabic, Portuguese and English.

At the end of June 2020, Ayoba had two million active users.

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