KaiOS' Next Frontier: Africa [Updated February 2024]

Posted by Tom Barrasso on (updated on )

KaiOS is positioned to grow significantly across Africa.

Why it matters? Market trends, as well as recent partnership and investments, suggests the smart feature phone operating system has an opportunity to capture hundreds of millions of first time internet users across the continent.

In KaiOS’ February Developer Update, it was announced that, “KaiOS is refocused on growth.”

  • KaiOS is expanding in developing markets, specifically in Africa (launching in 10+ new African markets)
  • KaiOS launched a device financing program in Tanzania with the TZ1
    • Similar programs are expected soon in South Africa, Nigeria, Zambia, DRC and Rwanda
  • The first KaiOS smart feature phone was launched in Japan in Q1 2024
  • At CES 2024, KaiOS discussed 5G smart feature phones “slated for an early 2025 rollout” in partnership with Qualcomm

Growth Opportunities

  • Global telecommunication companies continue to migrate users from 2G to 4G
  • 4G feature phones are often used as companion/ secondary devices
  • Feature phones cost less to make compared to smartphones
  • KaiOS offers a higher Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) over 4G Real-Time Operating System (RTOS)
  • KaiOS’ partnership with Trustonic to enable subsidy locking and device financing
  • KaiOS partners with Konnect to expand financial inclusion and provide secure payment solutions among communities and individuals in Africa
  • Finnfund invested $3.4 million so that, “KaiOS can expand into new markets in Sub-Saharan Africa”

By the numbers

The Mobile Economy in Sub-Saharan Africa 2019. GSMA 2019
The Mobile Economy in Sub-Saharan Africa 2019. GSMA 2019

Big risks

  • Global chip shortages limit device shipments
  • Competition from lower-cost 4G RTOS devices
  • KaiOS lacks brand recognition and key apps, driving buyers to Google’s Android
  • African telcos may favor partnerships with Google over KaiOS, as Jio did in 2021
  • Unreliable electric grids across Africa may lead buyers to prefer 4G RTOS phones with longer standby times
  • Expensive data rates prohibit new 4G subscriptions in Africa
  • Several of Africa’s largest Telecom companies are partially or fully state-owned and may prefer platforms with tigher controls


If you are a KaiOS developer, or considering expansion to the platform, it’s important to design and architect your apps to effectively serve a global user base. If you want a partner to grow your presence in Africa on KaiOS, contact tha author from the About page.