THE famous ones are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, MySpace and Mocospace!
Other countries such as China have developed their own social networking sites like Weibo, which The Guardian of the United Kingdom describes as the Chinese Twitter that dwarfs Twitter.
Well, Zambia is not that far behind! Ever heard of Amunzi? Designed and founded by 25-year-old Tresford Himanansa, Amunzi is a Zambian version of Facebook. The name is derived from the Chewa word munzi which means village.
“I just decided to add the ‘a’ to it, otherwise it doesn’t mean anything,” says the soft-spoken Zambian version of Mark Zukerberg.
The Livingstone-born has not always had an interest in computers. His first love was electrical electronics, which he even applied for at the Copperbelt University (CBU).
“CBU snubbed me and it was instead Evelyn Hone College that had accepted me in Computer Studies, a second option course… my three years at Evelyn Hone College were literally my best. It was while there that I developed great skill in information and communication technologies (ICTs),” says Tresford, who attended Livingstone’s Dambwa Primary School and St Raphael’s Secondary School, and Lubuto High in Ndola.
After completing his studies at the Evelyn Hone, Tresford, who is based in Ndola, where his father, Nicholas, a Zamtel retiree, had moved from Livingstone in 2004, embarked on a job-hunting expedition but with no success.
In a way, that is how Amunzi was born.
After failing to find employment, he decided to become his own boss by forming and registering a company with the Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA) called XyPNET, a software development and web hosting firm, and parent company to Amunzi.
“What I’ve come to learn in life is to never approach it with a laissez-faire attitude. It is a fact that jobs in this era are hard to find. There are some courses that guarantee one a job just upon completion whereas there are also those that don’t because of the competition and number of graduates. So I thought, why can’t I just form my own company?” he says.
And just like Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, Tresford too started the Amunzi project in 2011 as just a hobby.
“It just clicked in my mind. I was like, South Africa has Mxit and 2go, Nigeria has LAGbook, why don’t we have one as well?” says Tresford, who is the first born in a family of five (three boys and two girls).
However, he had no idea of what he was getting into as within a short period of time, the site started growing, prompting him to re-design it, adding more and better features. He launched the new site which he called Amunzi Re-loaded on October 24 last year.
By press time, the website had about 11, 002 users with an average of 60 new users each day. On the network, Tresford has also employed eight people so far.
“We are still growing but hope to reach as many people in the next four months. We are embarking on a serious marketing strategy to boost our revenue so that we can in the near future employ perhaps more people on the network.
“The business community can also come and place adverts on it, it would boost their businesses too. For the users, signing up is absolutely free, they even have the option to sign up using Facebook,” he says.
Tresford largely borrowed the idea of Amunzi from a number of other social networking sites.
“I first sat down and identified the flaws and features on some of the popular sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It was from those flaws that I decided to come up with an even better Amunzi. That’s how it is in business, you have to look at the flaws of your friend in order to come up with a better product,” he says.
“Amunzi gives users the power to connect with friends, family, meet new people, discover new things and keep up to date with what is happening around them. It is a playground, workplace, a campus, a school, a church and a residential place for our users.”
The network provides features for everyone, regardless of age and gender, plus new features which are continuously added based on users’ suggestions.
The greatest feature is perhaps the language feed. It practically gives the user an option to English. The user can choose one of the six major Zambian languages (Chinyanja, Chitonga, Ichibemba, Lunda, Luvale and Silozi).
“It is convenient for those that do not have a good grasp of the English language,” he says.
The site also has applications such as the Bible, English dictionary as well as places. It also allows the user to stick a photo, link, video, and music or blog entry on their board.
The site also allows users to create personal profiles, add other Amunzi users to communities as members, send and receive messages, stick on other members’ boards, slap members of the communities, wink at other users, receive updates when a member of a community updates their profile contents, sticks on a board, or comments on a photo and stickers.
Members may also join common interest groups, like fashion, politics, school and church.
“It also allows users to categorise members into communities such as besties, family, work, church, school and others,” he adds.
Online social networking sites are some of the most popular online destinations right now, tending to package services together in an organised and attractive way so that users can leverage the World Wide Web to make connections with others.
There are hundreds of social networking sites and Amunzi is just one of them. These sites can bring people closer together while being miles apart but they can also be lucrative projects as Mark Zuckerberg has demonstrated.
Mark, 29, who is the chairman and chief executive of Facebook, Inc. is estimated to have personal wealth of about US$9.4 billion and since 2010 has been named among the 100 wealthiest and most influential people in the world by Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. Tresford seemingly hopes to follow suit!
Zambia Daily Mail