In China, debate rages around which of the Ma’s (Pony at Tencent; Jack at Alibaba) is the greater wealth creator for shareholders.

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– Alec Hogg By Andrew England One of China’s largest internet companies is intensifying its efforts to crack the African market with a bid to disrupt Facebook’s Whats App with a rival messaging service.

Tencent has teamed with Africa’s largest media company, Naspers, to introduce its social media app across the continent.

The service, We Chat, has more than 650m active monthly users in China, and it is cheaper than SMS.

The Chinese-South African joint venture is betting on the rapid growth of smartphone sales to young people, who are increasingly using their mobile phones to shop, bank, search for jobs, listen to radio and order taxis and takeaways.

This enables users to conduct financial transactions and make payments using mobile phones, even to recipients with no bank account.

Mr Loubser declined to say how many users it had in Africa, but he acknowledged that competition was intensifying.

World Wide Worx, a Johannesburg-based technology research company, estimates that We Chat, launched in the African market in 2014, has about 6m registered users in South Africa, compared with about 14m active Whats App users.

“Given that Whats App is eight years old, we’re five years late to the party, and I think where we are at right now we are happy with,” Mr Loubser said.

Naspers holds a 46.5 per cent stake in Tencent, making it one of the highest profile examples of South African and Chinese companies joining forces to expand across the continent.

Its initial investment of m for the shareholding has paid off spectacularly, helping Naspers become South Africa’s biggest company by value and its chairman Koos Bekker to become a billionaire.

Brett Loubser, the head of We Chat Africa, said the average African would have their first ever experience of the internet through their mobile device.