The short answer, no. The long answer, it depends.
June 2010, Pieter Uys, Vodacom CEO confirmed that they had sold 90 000 iPhones. With the launch of the iPhone 4 on both Vodacom and MTN, I’m taking a guess that there are roughly 200 000 iPhones in SA. Take into account that not everyone that owns an iPhone has downloaded apps, the number of people that might actually then have access to your app is pretty low.
So, if you are a South African based company, with mostly local clients and your app is targeted only for South Africans, don’t waste your time developing an app for the local market if you want to make money. There really aren’t enough eye balls for you to break even. If its for a global audience and the app is suited to the iPhone, then definitely give it a go!
If you are in South Africa, rather build a mobile site. With mobile penetration as high as 98% and well over 10 million people browsing the mobile web on a daily basis in South Africa, you’ll have way more success building a mobile website that caters for a South African audience. If your mobile site can run off a Samsung E250 or Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, you are on the money! These are some of the most popular cellphones in SA with literally hundreds of thousands of these devices being sold. They easily connect to the web using GPRS / EDGE / 3G and give people easy access to your mobile site using the built in browser. No need to download anything in order to browse to your mobile site!
The last factor to bear in mind is compatibility. When building an iPhone version (or for any smartphone for that matter), you have to provide updates from time to time as and when the phones manufacturer releases new functionality and versions of their software. With a mobile website, you will be building it using standard HTML and CSS, which will never need updating when newer model phones come out. It’s a standard that every phone manufacturer has adopted for the mobile browsers on their devices.
So in essence, consider the mobile web first, before exploring the option of developing an iPhone app!