Stellenbosch-based Mxit – the original mobile messenger app worldwide – announced on 23 October that the company has donated its intellectual property and technology assets to The Reach Trust (Reach), an independent public benefit organisation established to improve lives. The new owners of the technology will continue to use the Mxit platform and its ecosystem of services but with a new focus – to deliver cost-effective mobile education and social services at scale via cellphone to users in South Africa.

“The Mxit story is a story of innovation,” says Ben-Carl Haveman, chief product and strategy officer of The Reach Trust. “In essence, it is the start of a new era for Mxit and the role it will play in society.”

Since its launch in 2005, Mxit has had a decade of engagement on mostly non-smartphones with a younger audience of close to 100 million users. According to Haveman this experience and the understanding of this group that Reach will continue to serve, put the team in an opportune position to launch life-changing services for this younger generation in South Africa where mobile technology plays a major role to accelerate social and economic change. 

Since its founding in 2012, Reach already has helped more than 10 million people to improve their lives through Mxit apps. These range from free education (more than 500 000 subscribers), daily pregnancy advice (1,5 million subscribers), advice on activities that can aid a child’s development (more than 600 000 subscribers), discreet text-based counselling services (more than 800 000 events) and career guidance, to mention a few.

A good example is the Ukufunda Virtual School that was launched in partnership with the Department of Basic Education and UNICEF on Mxit in September last year. To date, more than 140 000 learners from 10 000 schools across the country have signed up for Ukufunda which offers personalised learning and teaching via cellphone both in and beyond the classroom, anywhere, anytime. This innovation helps to raise education standards and put the power of education in the hands of learners, teachers and parents.

Reach’s primary focus for the next 12 months will be on education. A number of projects are already underway and a new flagship product aimed at high school learners will be launched early in 2016.

Mxit has evolved into a social network with a social purpose. It is indeed the start of a new era, as Haveman has put it.

  • The Reach Trust was established in 2012 to inspire and improve lives through the development of innovative and cost-effective mobile solutions. As a Public Benefit Organisation – governed by an independent board of trustees – the trust is fortunate to work in partnership with thought leaders, governments, organisations, communities and individuals around the world to develop products and solutions with a meaningful impact.