Clever data approach helps Opera Mini grow popularity in Africa

Clever data approach helps Opera Mini grow popularity in Africa

#consumer markets
Opera's Mini search engine is giving Google Chrome a run for its money in Africa, thanks to its canny approach to data.

By Conrad Onyango, bird story agency

When parent company Opera announced recently that its mobile browser, Opera Mini, had hit 1 billion downloads on Google Play Store, recently, it pointed out the growing popularity of its software in Africa.

“The browser has been especially successful across Africa, where the cost of data is among the highest in the world. African users require a practical and reliable tool that enables them to browse the web with ease while consuming less data,” Opera noted in a statement. 

The browser, created 18 years ago to help users access the internet on mobile devices in regions with limited network connectivity and slower internet speeds, is now among the most popular mobile browsers in Africa. In some countries it has a share of the market that is more than 40%.

“The team behind Opera Mini envisioned a browser that could bridge the digital divide and empower users to explore the vast online world, no matter where they were located. This commitment to inclusivity and accessibility has been a driving force behind Opera Mini’s success,” said the company.

Opera Mini's data compression technology, which can save up to 90% of users' data while browsing, according to the search engine, has been a driving force behind its success in high-cost data markets. It is often a popular first window to the web for millions of users in those markets, Opera said.

The browser enjoys over 90% brand awareness across Africa, thanks to a deliberate focus on mobile products - headlined by the company’s free data campaigns, a key aspect of Opera’s Africa First strategy, since December 2017.

The campaigns, which are delivered through partnerships with local telcos, have seen Opera offer up to 3GB of free data every month to nearly 40 million people across five countries, in a US$100 million investment.

In Kenya alone, Opera has invested over US$12 million in free data campaigns over the past three years. The result is that Opera Mini now has a 40.3% share, in the country, after Chrome’s 54.3%.

Opera also enjoys a 33.7% share in Nigeria, its other key area of operation, where it is pushing to dethrone market leader Chrome, which commands a 55% share. 

In September, Opera launched a free data campaign in Ethiopia with a 50 MB daily offer, eyeing an opportunity to link millions of people to the internet through Kenyan telco, Safaricom. Ethiopia currently only has 16.7% nationwide internet penetration.

“Ethiopia is a large and growing country in which we see a great deal of potential,” said Jørgen Arnesen, Executive Vice President, Mobile, at Opera.

Opera currently has second a 5.7% share in Ethiopia, ranking second after Chrome. It is also second in the Democratic Republic of Congo (with a 33% share), Burundi (23%), Central Africa Republic (24%), Benin, Botswana, Chad, Ghana, Malawi, and Madagascar. 

Opera also enjoys the third spot in many other markets where Chrome and Apple’s Safari hold larger market shares.

In South Africa, Opera is ranked fourth with just 3.9%  of the market, after Chrome (69.6%), Safari (14.6%) and Samsung Internet (10.3%). In June, however, Mini was the most popular browser on the Google Play Store in that country, according to Opera, pointing to growing brand awareness.

According to broadband information platform,, Zimbabwe currently has the highest mobile data prices in the world, with South Sudan also highly placed. According to Statista, São Tomé and Príncipe also ranks highly, with average mobile data costs of US$29.5 per GB.

The cost of mobile data varies significantly across the continent, with Algeria and Malawi having some of the lowest average prices (US$ 0.48 and US$ 0.38 per GB respectively), while Zambia has lowered its prices the most (256%) since 2019, according to

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