This article on Koranteng’s Toli was a great read. Actually, in general, his blog is a great read, but this article really stuck out as it’s about the fact that Ghana doesn’t appear to exist in the world of Apple:
Yes, take your i-something, open the Contacts App, create a new contact and add a new address. Alternatively just try to edit an existing address. Now try to change the country field to Ghana. Note, if you will, the result: Ghana is not in the list of countries. Search under “Africa (Western)” and you’ll see nary a trace of Ghana.
He goes on to talk about how it’s probably just a bug and that it will be updated at some point in the near future, especially if a stink is to be raised about it. But, it begs that question as to why it’s not there in the first place. It’s not like the list of all 193 countries in the world is that hard to find and yes, Ghana is on that list.
I could buy the bug issue as I saw this first hand when working at a company and looking at their international shipping to see that my country, Croatia wasn’t in the list. I really scanned through the list and then found it under Hrvatska, which is how you say Croatia in Croatian. But, this was the only country like that. There was no España or Deutschland in the list. I asked my manager what the deal with that was and he admitted that they had just cut and paste the list from another site. So, in this case it was abject laziness and it could be in the Apple iApp situation that the same applies because Americans and by association, American coders are often unaware that Africa is a continent and not a country, they probably just screwed up.
But then there rises the issue that Jean-Patrick Ehouman ran in to when trying to run ads on Facebook in that when you choose a country to target in their system, Côte d’Ivoire is not in the list. Oddly enough, in this instance, Ghana is in the list as well as Nigeria. But, in West Africa the following countries are not available for ad targeting on Facebook: Mali, Cameroon, Liberia, Benin, Togo, Guinea, Senegal, The Gambia, Niger, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, and Mauritania. That’s a big list and I didn’t even check for the rest of Africa.
So here is where you get in to a chicken and egg problem. Businesses will claim that there is no market for them in Africa. But, they are in effect creating the barriers to any kind of market developing by simple acts of non-inclusion. If Apple does some kind of Big Brother thing (which I wouldn’t put past them) and looks at all the contacts that all their iPhone users have registered, they’ll see none in Ghana and assume that there is no business in Ghana. The same goes for Facebook. They can easily say that they won’t bother with West Africa because no one is buying ads for the region. Likewise, Google can claim that AdWords in Africa don’t work because you can’t register or get paid for running AdWords for most everyone on the continent.
The solution to all of this is basically for companies to stop sticking their heads in the sand when it comes to Africa. As I’ve said before, Google is making a good deal of headway in this department, although it’s slow going. Facebook, Apple, and a great number of others still have some way to go. But just having all the countries in the world available as options would be a rather massive first step. An important second step would be to incorporate more languages. So what if you don’t see any French or Spanish users on your site or for your product? Maybe if that version is made available the market will suddenly explode.
It all boils down to the fact that at some point, you gotta say screw it, roast the chicken, boil the eggs, and take a chance that in all likelihood will pay off big time.