Africa Rising: Contemporary Culture Revolution Presents Huge Digital Opportunities

By: Taryn Uhlmann, Executive Head – Content & Marketing

When deriving video-on-demand (VOD) content strategies for Africa, adapting to the bespoke needs of consumers based on often changing continental trends ensures a targeted content and marketing solution that avoids the cookie cutter approach of trying to replicate mature market successes such as those of Netflix.

This is because Africa is unique. Whilst a seemingly redundant statement, I feel that this is a description of Africa often waxed lyrical and never fully unpacked. It is a perception that lumps African countries under one ‘Africa’, ignoring the pre-existing and contemporary social and cultural differences that exist from country to country across the continent.

Growing millennial and post millennial youth populations within each country are driving vibrant change across the continent: we are seeing continual waves of experimental and innovative approaches within movies, music, art, fashion and design, across various countries which are characteristic of those countries. These popular culture movements have a distinct African spirit – they are bold, fresh and creative in multiple ways and have ushered in a revival of interest in African culture. This is the African reality the world is wanting to see, and which Africans are wanting to show, across screens within multiple content forms.

Lowering barriers to entry

Africa’s youth population, already around 200 million strong and growing fast, is driving a consistent pan-African cultural change through their digital – in particular mobile – content consumption behaviour. The most overwhelming force of change is the plethora of mobile usage and subsequent mobile solutions such as mobile wallets, and conversely, the lack of consistent quality broadband. ‘Taking Africa to the world, and bringing the world to Africa’, requires rich digital platforms. Much of Africa is still challenged by slow or costly internet access which presents a significant hurdle considering that African youth culture is predominantly digital, driven by multimedia, and most likely to access online content via a mobile device.

Short form content opportunities

Ubiquitous mobile usage and challenging data access means the content delivered must adapt.  Enter the rise and rise of short form, easily consumable content. This doesn’t mean quality is jeopardised. In fact, a lot of mainstream titles available are being chapterised and condensed into shorter ‘series’ of 6-8 minutes, appropriate for new audience consumption on mobile devices, and original material is also being produced for young audiences who seek faster resolution of a storyline. This is not merely a ramification of the instant gratification trend of young audiences, but rather a practical need – consuming stories on the go, in communal free WiFi hotspot areas and at the mercy of dropped lines and inconsistent connectivity.

Partnership opportunities

Data is practically currency for the youth market, presenting great brand building opportunities for companies offering subsidised broadband in partnership with telcos. For multimedia producers and VOD services, marketing partnerships with telcos and ISPs who can offer levels of subsidised broadband are essential for ensuring the success of the content services throughout Africa.

This presents significant opportunities for content producers, app developers, VOD services, telcos, broadcasters and businesses wanting to connect with rising African talent and creatives. Through correct partnerships to lower the barriers to entry to internet access, rich media content and VOD platforms, stakeholders will fast-track VOD roll-outs and spark the rise of new digital growth opportunities.

But to deliver on this emerging potential, African countries need not only offer the appropriate rich media platforms and affordable and reliable data but the right approach to marketing too.

Marketing focus

While new on-demand and rich media platforms have the potential to catalyse any resurgence of African popular culture, it must be borne in mind that they are still new, fairly complicated products and relatively unknown across much of Africa. Again, there can be no cookie cutter approach. Every country has unique cultural and sub-cultural communities, and the youth across Africa are distinctly different to older generations. Engaging the various markets demands an in-depth understanding of those consumers, targeted micro-marketing to specific communities, as well as personal engagement on the ground across many areas. To deliver on the promise VOD holds for Africa, marketing efforts must be tailored to speak directly to the individual consumer, to mobilise in relevant ways and to make use of compelling and engaging calls to action, getting people to actually do something. Here again, telcos and local broadcasters are ideally positioned to take rich digital platforms and VOD services to market, through their existing infrastructures, retail outlets and existing relationships with consumers.

Telco brand refreshes

Telcos who enable multimedia and VOD services stand to gain significantly as they can use these value-added services as an acquisition, sales and retention tool, and they can also align themselves with popular culture and so contemporise and refresh their brands. They can allow partnering brands the opportunity to speak to their customers in new and different ways, for example by using Hollywood characters, franchise and star collateral in their marketing (unencumbered by heavy licensing fees), receiving money-can’t-buy prizing opportunities and generally providing their customers with a fresh and vibrant new brand experience.

So, what is the key takeaway?  Adapt and mould around unique realities.  Don’t try and change the reality.

The only way to discover the limits of THE possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.

Go Beyond. Go Discover.