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Aiming to address dating challenges in the modern world while honoring local norms and values, two tech firms, Link All Technologies and Spark Technologies, have developed a marriage-focused Ethiopian dating app dubbed Ethio Marriage.

The app, which boasts an array of distinctive attributes ensuring a safe and culturally sensitive environment for users, was launched yesterday, August 8, 2023, in Addis Ababa.

“Ethio Marriage is designed to provide healthy solutions to dating challenges, transcending the boundaries of a mere communication app by placing marriage at its core,” shared Yunus Abdu, the founder and CEO of Link All Technologies, in an interview with Shega.

Akofada (DFS Ethiopia)

Crafted by a team of six individuals over the course of two years, the group assessed more than a dozen local and global dating apps to solidify their concept and identify areas for enhancement.

Among the issues they uncovered were challenges related to verifying users’ identities as stated in their profiles, surface-level interactions, and encountering apps that failed to align with local cultural norms.

Users can explore the basic features of Ethio Marriage, which is also called M-net, without signing up. However, to access the pool of potential matches, users are required to complete a registration process. This process involves entering basic information about one’s identity as well as answering some personality test questions, which helps create a comprehensive profile. To deter multiple account creations, phone number verification is mandatory.

Users are prompted to provide details such as religion, location, age, education level, profession, HIV test results, height, and their intended timeline for marriage. Notably, Ethio Marriage does not permit photo uploads for profile pictures; instead, users can choose from a selection of avatars. This design choice is driven by a commitment to combating fraudulent activities and discouraging superficial judgments based solely on appearance.

“Our app is designed for marriage. Because of this, we adopted features that we believe are the bedrock of marriage. We want people to be judged by their personalities,” said Yunus.

Upon completing their profiles, users are automatically provided access to a pool of profiles from the opposite gender. Simultaneously, their own profile becomes visible to users of the app’s opposite sex.

User profiles include essential information, empowering users to initiate conversations with individuals they believe are compatible matches. The displayed profiles are specifically tailored to align with users’ religious affiliations. If users are open to exploring matches outside their own religion, the app’s filter option facilitates the exploration of profiles from diverse faith backgrounds.

Another noteworthy aspect of the app is its capacity to facilitate connections among marginalized communities, including individuals with physical disabilities and those living with the HIV virus.

“In today’s world, it’s particularly challenging for such individuals to establish meaningful connections. For instance, I’ve observed HIV-positive individuals creating profiles on platforms like Telegram, hoping to find their significant other. They go the extra mile, concealing their identity and openly expressing their HIV-positive status, seeking marriage,” shared Yunus.

Nonetheless, Ethio Marriage offers a solution. Individuals facing these circumstances can create a profile on the app and seamlessly connect with fellow HIV-positive individuals. This is made possible through the app’s filter feature, which enables them to directly interact with other users who have openly identified themselves as HIV positive on the platform.

Currently available in Amharic and English, with additional languages such as Afaan Oromoo and Somali in the works, Ethio Marriage allows users to video call besides texting.

Interactions within Ethio Marriage, such as texting and video calling, necessitate the use of credits, a strategy employed by the startups to monetize their app. Users have the option to purchase credits for as little as five birr or one dollar, providing them with a specific amount of credit. These credits can be utilized for chatting until they are depleted.

The app seamlessly integrates with both Chapa and SantimPay payment gateways, enabling transactions through various local and international payment methods. Furthermore, purchased credits can be transferred to other users on the platform.

We want people to be judged by their personalities.

While engaging in conversations within Ethio Marriage, users have the option to share photos of themselves if they wish. However, the app does not support photo uploads from the gallery; instead, users can only take and upload live selfies. This measure is implemented to bolster efforts against catfishing and the unauthorized use of images belonging to others.

Additionally, Ethio Marriage comes equipped with a curated set of 250 pre-designed questions for users who may struggle with initiating conversations. These questions align with the app’s core values and focus on topics vital to successful marriages. Topics include subjects such as smoking habits, willingness to undergo HIV testing together, and frequency of attending religious services.

Although Spark Technologies is a recently established company, Link All Technologies has been in the business for over two years.

The firm specializes in developing tech solutions across diverse sectors. Last month, it entered into a partnership with ZamZam Bank to launch a product that facilitates seamless connectivity between travel agencies and hotel bookings for pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia. Named “Guzo le-umrah,” the product is expected to assist over 400,000 Ethiopian customers who embark on the annual journey to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, Link All is currently developing a police digital record information management system for the Ethiopian Federal Police, a system that intends to digitize and streamline various operations of the security force.

The global dating app market made $4.94 billion revenue in 2022. As of October 2022, online dating app Tinder accounted for 16 percent of the online dating market.

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Kaleab Girma, an Addis Ababa-based reporter and researcher, with over six years of experience in the field. He currently serves as Shega's Editor-in-Chief and specializes in reporting on small businesses, innovation, technology, and startups in Ethiopia.