Chenosis: Create Africa’s first API Marketplace in just one month.

API Portal Website

Challenge

The rise of developers in Africa has been as exponential as the progress of technology itself. Start-ups from across the continent are attracting international investors, big corporates are competing for world-class local talent and youth are coding solutions that solve relevant, real-life challenges. Among all the innovation buzzing between borders, our client identified a gap in the market. Something more than a business opportunity or a chance to sell a product. They found an opportunity for Africa. So began the journey of the creation of Chenosis; Africa’s very first homegrown API marketplace. A simple concept, with so many parts and so much potential that called for a considered, human-first approach at the pace of agile execution. PlusNarrative’s long-standing partnership with MTN meant that they had already enjoyed the results achieved through our approach to design thinking principles in previous projects.

STRATEGY PROCESSES
  • Design thinking
  • Workshop facilitation
  • Wireframing
  • Usability testing

 

While MTN had found an opportunity for Africa, they also presented us with an opportunity to gather inspiration, facilitate idea generation, design prototypes and test them in the real-world . Chenosis is the perfect product for a co-creative approach; it requires insights, input and testing from multiple parties, careful prioritization of features, and quick decision making to go live fast. How fast? We got Chenosis up and running in just one month!

 

 

Goal

Around 700 000 developers in Africa are building solutions every day and the market is still growing. Yet there is no uniquely African API library for African developers to publish or source specifically African APIs.

An African solution is one that takes uniquely African challenges into account. Consider something as simple as your home address. While developers in other countries can easily pull APIs for location services like Google maps from existing libraries, African developers need to consider that their users might not have street names. Addresses work a little differently in Africa, so while you might find formal addresses in cities, branch out a bit further and you’ll need to rely on landmarks and local residents to find your way. Chances are, there is a developer on the continent who has created an API to fill the gap left by global navigation services. If only that developer wasn’t limited by the lack of local libraries on which to publish, distribute and monetize that API…

Chenosis, powered by MTN, would answer these needs.

Strategy

Our first workshop was all about unpacking this need. Why would African developers even want their own API library when there are global libraries available? The answers lead to two solid value propositions:

1. For API developers who want to create a new revenue stream, Chenosis is a marketplace to publish digital products for other developers to discover and purchase.
2. For app developers who want to create solutions to uniquely African challenges, Chenosis is a marketplace to discover locally tailored APIs that work best in the pan-African context.

The creation of any sort of library is no small task, but we had already completed a version of this journey with MTN. To encourage innovation across the Group, we had previously built a library of APIs for internal use. That journey took twelve months on the traditional software development route. We didn’t have another twelve months to get Chenosis off the ground. What we did have was insights to gain from that project and a number of APIs we could whitelist to publish on Chenosis.

The first lesson we took from creating the internal API library was to rethink the technology used to build the platform. To do so, we stopped thinking about technology for a moment. Design sprints exist to uncover the needs of the people we want to serve, cueing us to choose technology that works for them.

A CMS like WordPress or Drupal is great for launching a website quickly, but the number of custom requirements meant that sort of framework would actually hinder development. We also needed Chenosis to be able to connect with a cloud-based API management tool called Apigee. With a better understanding of all the parts needed to make Chenosis work, we agreed on using Laravel as our PHP framework because it connected perfectly with Apigee and allowed for quick custom coding too. Technology in design thinking is all about using the best combination of tools to arrive at a solution that is functional, fast to deploy and puts the needs of the people it serves, first.

DESIGN
  • High-fidelity design
  • Rapid prototypes

Design

Chenosis is meant to feel like a community for African coders, an unmet social need for the continent. To make sure the platform would appeal to developers, we brought developers to the design sprint. Insights from the workshop resulted in the creation of Chenosis’ API recipe section and a tutorial page. These are the elements that bring developers back to Chenosis even when they aren’t shopping for APIs. If we hadn’t included developers in our workshops, these opportunities would likely have been missed.

Design thinking compels teams to prioritise tasks and make decisions quickly. Design sprints with our client and the people they serve helped to form consensus on which APIs we would be taking from the internal library and publishing on Chenosis first.

A perfect mix of the right tools and insights made for a quick and clean prototype for everyone involved to start testing.

Development
  • Front-end development
  • API development
  • Analytics

Development

A library of this scale requires iterative design. Even after Chenosis went live, we continued to tweak, revise and improve the platform and still do so today. The very nature of the product and the industry it serves means that iteration can continue indefinitely. Going live was just the first step in a project that is meant to keep evolving as the needs of the African developer community evolves. We’ve created opportunities to serve API publishers and developers with products and services that they actually want, because we apply design thinking to every product and section intended for Chenosis.

Results

Visit Chenosis today and you will find a platform that meets the needs of people that were previously overlooked. Design thinking took us from concept to live in just one month, saving our client 11 months of time and hundreds of thousands of Rands in budget.

Now, Africa has its very own digital library for companies and developers to monetize their work, and for coders who lack the time or skillset to build their own APIs affordably. The journey continues as we explore and prioritize future monetization opportunities for Chenosis, with design thinking to speed us along every step of the way.

Get in touch with the PlusNarrative team to talk about how design thinking can make your next project your pride and joy.