Traction Engine sets out to solve problems in the African advertising market

Nigel Gambanga Avatar

For anyone involved in online content generation through blogs or any other form of online publications the issue of monetisation via advertising always stares at you in the face. A lot of issues come into consideration with this model though. A local startup, Traction Engine, has come up with a solution for some of these challenges.

Those in the know will tell you that selling ad space manually involves a lot of work. Besides identifying and interacting with potential buyers of the space and convincing them to part with whatever amount you have set for each slot, there’s the nightmare of organising payments which is a monster on its own because of issues such as follow-ups and transactional logistics. This problem becomes even bigger when you want to attract clients from outside the country who also want to flight ads on your local blog.

Google AdSense has always been the preferred (if not default) solution for some of these challenges when you are cutting your teeth in online publishing. Sooner or later though you begin to realise that this option does not always offer decent remuneration leading you back to direct selling. Besides there is no way of determining the relevance of ads that readers on your platform see.

Traction Engine was set up by the same team behind e-commerce payments integration platform Pay4App. Their solution has built momentum on the burgeoning market of locally produced content which as figures suggest, is readily consumed by the local market whose appetite for local material tops all of Africa.

The idea behind Traction Engine was to provide an ad engine that gives publishers an opportunity to sell space at reasonable rates to clients that would not have to spend time (and money) securing slots.

The process is automated for customers and content creators/publishers. All a customer has to do when wanting to place an ad is to browse through the website, identify the slot with the most suitable format, price, and payment models. After that they create an ad and pay for it immediately with mobile money, credit cards or bank cards.

Using a transaction based business model, Traction Engine charges per every successful online sale made. According to Sam Takunda, the developer behind Traction Engine, this was a more fitting solution than a charge for pages viewed or a fixed price model as high page views did not necessarily translate to add sales.

The product is pretty much at the beta stage and has been piloted in Africa and Asia. Takunda says they are gathering feedback and assessing what has relevance in these markets so as to avoid working with assumptions based on similar products and their functionality in advanced markets such as the USA.

As a bootstrapped startup with a keen focus on addressing problems bedevilling Africa, Takunda highlighted the importance of working with individuals with the same focus and how this has been an asset for them.

He believes that as a team they have a genuine interest in solving some of Africa’s platform challenges and in doing so they are not in a rush, but try as hard as they can to understand the exact needs of the market and users while forgoing other routes and shortcuts that would make more financial sense.

So what is the plan going forward for Traction Engine? At the moment they have been focused on leveraging on the value proposition of the product which has opened doors in other emerging markets. They are set to make it available to established online brands there first and as they have potential clients lined up there it looks like they have managed to address a problem.

At a later stage, after they have gathered feedback, they want to provide a solution for smaller publishers that might not be able to garner direct ad sales attention. They hope to have a solution that fits best for local market conditions rather than just a “copy/paste” concept that is not compatible with what is needed on the ground.



  1. John

    This seems to be the same with though Spryads has more functionality, i have used both.

  2. Mike

    Not exactly John. Spry is an advertising network like AdSense, they took on the epic challenge of building a platform connecting publishers and advertisers.

    Traction Engine is a SaaS for established online brands that want to ramp up their direct ad sales channel.

    So same industry, different problems. The two aren’t comparable.