The first thing Dinah Colecraft does when she wakes up in her house in Ghana’s capital, Accra, isn’t take a shower or make a coffee.
Instead, she downloads a devotion sent by her church, using an app. With Asoriba she can browse the church events taking place that weekend and even make a donation using her credit card.
Basically, it’s a one-stop shop for spirituality.
Created by a team of young Ghanaian entrepreneurs, Asoriba — the parent company behind the app — was deemed Africa’s Best Startup at the Seedstars World event last month in Casablanca, Morocco.
A Digital Collection Box
In Ghana, Christians normally give tithes — or a tenth of their monthly income — to the church.
While nobody knows exactly how much money is in circulation within the Christian church in the West African nation, due to the plethora of small institutions with no collective figures, most agree it’s a huge figure.
“I can reassure you that the churches are among the richest organizations in the country,” says Nana Prempeh, co-founder of Asoriba.
“Some churches need to use vans to take their money back to the bank on Sundays.”
By taking the collection box online, Asoriba has managed to tap into this huge market.
Colecraft, who works at Grace Gospel Ministries, uses the app’s payment feature.
“It’s very convenient to pay tithes on my phone,” she says. “In the comfort of my house, I can contribute to the church without necessarily having to be there.”
Prempeh says the church uses the donations to fund education and healthcare.
The Super Bowl of Africa
While Western societies such as the U.S. are becoming increasingly secular, the church in West Africa is experiencing the opposite trend.
With 71% of the country’s 26 million strong population being Christian, there is ample opportunity for a company like Asoriba to scale.
“The church is the center of people’s lives in Ghana,” says Prempeh. He compares big church events such as those held at New Year’s Eve to the Super Bowl in the United States.
“[It’s normal to have] a pastor come and bless your new house or pray for your new car, and on Sundays most people go to church,” he says.
The app has already signed up 381 churches. Asoriba, which means “church member” in Twi, a Ghanaian language, has been particularly popular with the Charismatics — a popular sect in West Africa — due to their young congregation, Prempeh says.
Ghana has 700 Christian sects, according to the World Christian Database, and around 71,000 individual congregations.
Is Digital Spiritual?
Part of Asoriba’s appeal is its ability to connect churchgoers with the church without them physically attending a service.
For those traveling or too busy to attend, the Sunday service can be downloaded, or even live-streamed, through Asoriba.
The app can be personalized to a church or minister.
But is anything lost with going from a physical to digital connection?
“You can never replace your real life connections. However, you can enhance the physical connections and go beyond,” Prempeh says.
The New Facebook for Churchgoers?
The next step for Asoriba — currently available on Android only, with an iOS version coming soon — is a social networking feature.
The team envisions creating a virtual space for users to engage with others of the same faith about sensitive topics, such as sex and marriage, which they may struggle to bring up with people in real life.
“We want people to express themselves, and we want to make it possible to have these conversations,” Prempeh says.