Issue No.91 / July 2017

Summview’s white label VoD and streaming platform designed for Africa is winning over mobile operators and audiences

Africa has been awash with flashy VoD and streaming service announcements but often it’s the quiet ones you have to watch. Summview has put together a white label platform designed for the Africa market with curated content that is getting traction both with mobile operators and audiences. Russell Southwood spoke to founder and CEO Denis Pagnac, Summview about how he’s gone about it.

The latest video clip interviews from Smart Monkey TV can be found at the bottom of this e-letter

Denis Pagnac has worked in both the telecoms and media industries so was in an ideal position to bridge the differences between these two very different worlds when he decided to launch his company.

So why did he decide to launch Summview:”It was a combination of passion and expertise. My father was European and my mother was Afro-Caribbean. I was interested in doing something in Africa. It seemed to me that people there were willing to create new things and leapfrog. There used to be 1-2 state channels, now they want to distribute content everywhere on mobile phones”.

Summview has created a multi-service, white label video platform that can be used by African mobile operator:” It’s a one stop shop turnkey platform. It’s available on mobile, tablet or smart TV box. It can be branded by whoever is using it, usually a mobile operator but also TV channels and cinema groups”.

Currently the platform is usually used to stream either live TV channels or radio stations:”It provides video and audio content as one time streams but can also do catch-up or podcasts. The platform needs to be integrated with the mobile environment. It make sures everyone is a subscriber of the operator. It ensures good IP connectivity and network blocking and geo-blocking. It deals with payment through any of the following: operator billing, mobile wallet, SMS and USSD”.

The approach used varies by country:”Sometimes it’s unlimited, sometimes limited, sometimes a one time subscription, sometimes renewable”.

On the content side, Pagnac has sought to build in-depth relationships with content owners and works with 50 different content owners, both international and African. The combination of content varies by country although it is focused on three main genres: education, information and news; and entertainment:”We work with different media brands in Europe including MTV, RFI, Trace and BET”. He believes in less content but regularly refreshing it.

The current balance of regional African content to International is 40%/60% but he’d like over time to move nearer to a 60%/40% position.

The platform has been rolled out by major mobile operators in Africa. It powers MTN TV in Cote d’Ivoire, Moov TV (Etisalat) also in Cote d’Ivoire; TV Orange in Burkina Faso and Trace by Orange Pulse in Cameroon.

On the platform that has been operating longest – MTN TV in Cote d’Ivoire – its app has had 100,000 downloads and has between 5-10,000 active users. The users pay 300 CFA (US52 cents) per day and 3,000 CFA (US$5.20) per month:”We’d like to reduce these prices.” The current offer includes 12 TV channels, radio channels, videos and premium content like telenovelas.

So what kind of content is he currently looking for?:”We look for content addressing different categories of audiences: entertainment, TV series, documentaries and particularly kids content. We’d like to get sports content but it’s hard because of the rights issue.”

How does he persuade mobile operators of the use case?:”They own the platform and we’ve optimised the costs (for them). It can be rapidly customized. It works to a business model and you can show the operator a business plan for breakeven quite rapidly. The costs are shared between content owners and the operator and there is no need to invest much to get a good service”.

Film and TV+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Competing with Netflix, Showmax dives into Production

Nearly two years after launching its on-demand service, Naspers’ South African streamer Showmax has begun production on its first original series. By Christopher Vourlias

Building on the popularity of local YouTube sensation Julia Anastasopoulos, “Tali’s Wedding Diary” is an eight-part mockumentary series slated to premiere on Showmax in December. Production is also underway on a small-screen adaptation of “iNumber Number,” the South African crime drama that world premiered in Toronto in 2013. The series will be a co-production with local network Mzansi Magic.

According to Showmax Africa head Chris Savides, the move into production signals the company’s intent to build on its strategy of developing content for African markets. “People obviously like Hollywood content, but we know that local content resonates,” Savides said.

Company execs hope that localized experience will give the service a leg up on Netflix, its chief competitor on the continent, which launched in all 54 African nations in 2016. (Showmax is available in more than 40 African nations.) Since debuting in South Africa in August 2015, Showmax has undergone its global rollout, expanding to more than 70 territories across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.

The decision to begin with two original series filmed in South Africa “makes sense,” Savides said, given the country’s high rate of broadband connectivity, its developed film and TV industries, and Showmax’s subscriber base there, its largest on the continent.

Showmax execs hope the series will bolster its efforts to offer a “hyper-local” experience to consumers and induce some “to discover other content on the platform,” Savides said.

But whether it can have wider appeal in linguistically and culturally diverse Africa is unclear. “Wedding Diary” is in English, and “iNumber Number” in English and Zulu. “We don’t believe that this content necessarily is going to translate to other markets in Africa,” Savides said.

Still, both shows could offer a template for the company as it begins to develop content for other countries, with Savides describing the two series as “the first of many.” The company is also currently planning to produce original content in Kenya, where it introduced a highly localized, mobile-only streaming service featuring a range of popular Kenyan films and TV shows last fall.
Source: Variety

Vubiquity signs deal with Viva Africa to license local content across Africa

Vubiquity, the leading global provider of premium content services, has signed a deal with Viva Africa to license local content across Nigeria, South Africa, Western Africa and Eastern Africa.

The deal, signed earlier this year, will provide customers with over 1,000 titles in different languages. Viva Africa is one of the largest sources of African video content, and focuses solely on sourcing, creating, aggregating and distributing locally produced content.

Titles will be available to customers as part of Vubiquity’s Micropacks offering and their existing SVOD catalogue. This will enable customers with budgets of all sizes to access high-quality content from both local providers and international studios.

Vubiquity will provide premium international content alongside Viva Africa’s localised offering. Both short- and long-form content will be included, building on the company’s intention to adapt to individual market needs, where customers often don’t have sufficient data allowances to watch entire movies on their devices.
Source: Press Release

Virtual reality is giving African filmmakers a new way to explore complex narratives

Two women and a man wrangle over fruits in Nairobi Berries, each one emptying the other’s core, while a poetic voice speaks over layered images of the Kenyan city. In The Other Dakar, a young girl receives a message and finds the hidden face of the Senegalese capital. In the Spirit Robot documentary, the Chale Wote Street Art Festival in Accra comes to life. And in Let This Be a Warning, a group of Africans is concerned about the arrival of an unbidden guest in their colony, raising a weighty question at the end of the film: “If black worlds exist(ed), would you be welcome in them?”

These short films, which were recently showcased at the German cultural center in Nairobi, share one trait: they are all virtual reality productions. They are stunning visual debuts from four African directors representing three countries, namely Ng’endo Mukii (Kenya), Selly Raby Kane (Senegal), Jonathan Dotse (Ghana), and Jim Chuchu (Kenya), respectively.

Across the world, virtual reality (VR) has gained new currency in the entertainment, gaming, and even journalism industries, generating billions of dollars in revenue. The technology is also slowly making inroads into the mainstream film community, with directors embracing VR to make immersive experiences that draw more audiences.

The Virtual Arcade at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival is an exemplar of that, showcasing virtual films that tackled climate change, the struggle of a mother in Gaza following her children’s death, and the search for the kanju spirit—“creativity born of struggle”—across Africa. At the Cannes Film Festival, organizers for the first time this year included a virtual reality project by the Oscar-winning Mexican director Alejandro Iñárritu in the official selection.

In many African markets, music and movie sales are undermined by rampant piracy and artists’ work is often used without permission or payment. This means virtual reality presents filmmakers with the opportunity to market movies directly to those who already own equipment or who can’t see the films unless they attend launches or special exhibits. These VR movies also push the boundaries of filmmaking in the continent, increasing its chances of breaking into the international market.

And in this quest to reinvent cinematic practices, African filmmakers are now saying that VR could give them an opportunity to both complement and push the traditional fold of African storytelling and dispel pervasive stereotypes about the continent. The nascent adoption of the technology in filmmaking globally, directors say, also creates a level playing field that gives them an equal chance of succeeding.

“For the first time, technology has caught up with African storytelling,” Jepchumba, a Kenyan digital artist, said during the screening of the films in Nairobi. “The onus is on us now.”

South Africa currently leads the efforts to use VR in the African continent, with the technology being applied in both filmmaking and advertising. The Cape Town-based non-profit Electric South also provides funding and training to creative teams producing virtual reality films across the continent, besides curating interactive exhibitions.

Yet despite the excitement surrounding the VR industry, challenges—some traditional, some new—persist. For instance, directors have spoken about grappling with how to get access to equipment, and then navigating, setting up, and using the new technology. Fixed frame movies also allow directors control over the set, but the all-seeing angles of VR gear mean actors have to be left alone on the set. Chuchu, who directed Let This Be a Warning says it felt like being “a theater director, rehearsing the scenes until the actors felt comfortable, and then leaving them to their own devices.”

Virtual reality productions would also struggle to find a foothold in the continent owing to some of the same difficulties facing African cinema. These barriers include low funding, poor distribution networks, lack of screening technologies, piracy, and viewers disposed towards Hollywood blockbuster movies. Chuchu says that these hurdles might impede the growth of VR as a transformative tool in African storytelling.

But George Gachara, a managing partner at the creative fund Heva, says it’s only a matter of time before the technology gains traction among consumers. In Africa, VR is already flourishing in the gaming industry, is being used to sell property, and is being explored as a tool for education. Once these value chains are created, Gachara says the challenge will be about how much we can excel in adapting VR technology in the creative industry and beyond.
Source: Quartz

Watch Ingrid Kopp, Electric South on funding five African Virtual Reality projects:

In Brief

Aicha Kamoise, the most famous of the African Youtubeuses of Paris, finally launches its TV series ... Secret Tabou. As the name suggests, it is better not to say too much and let you discover this production that brings together the greatest actors Cameroon of the moment under the leadership of Hippolyte Wato and Aicha Wete. Welcome to the new channel africaLOVE - full of new hot films in a few days! Subscribe here to discover them live:

The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) will be launching the South African Video on Demand (VOD) site at Durban International Film Festival in July. The VOD site is created to assist the audio visual industry in distributing content locally and internationally, allowing VOD users to watch films and TV shows when they choose to, rather than having to watch at a specific broadcast time. The NFVF will publish a catalogue of films, trailers, and biographies of South African talent participating in all spheres of the film industry on the site.

Sun International is partnering with South Africa-based video on demand (VOD) solutions provider, Discover Digital, to revolutionise its Most Valued Guests (MVG) loyalty programme reward offering. As of end June 2017, Sun International MVGs will receive a discounted offering to Discover Digital’s premium Digital Entertainment On Demand (DEOD) services to enjoy DEOD’s vast range of movies, TV series, news and sports programmes. This will allow MVGs to enjoy their choice of video entertainment on TVs, laptops, tablets and mobile phones at a place convenient to them.


STAGE360 mobile music and content service now available on BBM

The Discover tab in BBM continues to grow as BBM brings in new services and content to the platform. The latest to appear comes by way of Stream.Digital who today launched STAGE360 Music, a South African first mobile music and content service.

The concept of STAGE360 is to empower musical youth within South Africa, says STAGE360 Founder, Julian von Plato: "We have identified the best possible partnerships to reach this goal and ensure dreams become reality. BBM Messenger's content and services target the urban youth market with its robust technology platform and social community, making it the perfect home for STAGE360. With the support of BBM Messenger and our media partners, the service gives everyone the opportunity to engage with the youth."

Within a three-month cycle, 20 artists will be selected, provided with challenges and six will go through to perform at South Africa's top events across the country. One final artist will receive a produced single and music video that will be distributed across the STAGE360 network of partners. They will also receive their own channel on BBM. This cycle of finding South Africa's best talent will be repeated each quarter.

STAGE360 Music sits as an icon within BBM Messenger's Discover ecosystem of content and services. It is accompanied by categories such as News, DiscoverTV (soccer, kids, life, planet, animals, extreme, fitness, food, cars), Football365 (Live Scores), Rewards, Channels, Subscriptions, Stickers, Games and many more to come.


Meet Joox, South Africa’s newest music streaming service

Tencent, the Chinese company that owns WeChat and in which Naspers holds a sizeable stake, has launched its music streaming service called Joox in South Africa. The ad-supported, free version of the app limits users to pre-defined radio stations, but the subscription model offers the sorts of features you’d expect from a streaming service: on-demand access to the entire Joox library of 3 million tracks, an ad-free listening experience, high-quality audio, personal playlists and the option to store content offline on up to three devices.

Joox is offering all new users a month of “VIP” access, which otherwise costs R60/month or R30/week. Users can also bag a week of VIP access for each friend they refer who signs up to the service. That pricing keeps it aligned with Apple Music, Google Play Music, Simfy and Deezer, and cheaper than Tidal or Spotify (for those South Africans using workarounds to get the world’s biggest music streaming service).

The service is available for Android or iOS but doesn’t currently offer a desktop version, though Joox says it plans to release one before the end of 2017. So those wanting Joox on their laptop or desktop will have to make do with the web-based version for now. South Africa is the 5th market Joox has launched in, and is also available in Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The app itself is a relatively slick affair, with three main categories: My Music, Discover, and Radio.

Joox has entered South Africa relatively quietly, but we expect to see it ramping up its marketing activities in months to come. It’s already partnered with Vodacom to take advantage of the operator’s new “Meg Your Day” promotion that offers a GB of data each day for specific uses. Because the cost of data remains one of the primary obstacles faced by local streaming services, we wouldn’t be surprised to see further partnerships or promotions in future.

It seems Joox is hoping its focus on local content will set it apart from rival offerings like Apple Music, Google Play Music, Simfy and Deezer each of which has had a substantial head-start in the SA market, enjoy greater brand recognition and offer far more comprehensive catalogues. But, with it’s pricing in the same realm, Joox may need to add compelling playlist curation, aggressive marketing campaigns, or other unique selling points to the mix if it’s going to get a genuine foothold in South Africa… and not fade away like Rara.

In Brief

Break The Beat, will start airing on South Africa’s SABC 1 - Mzansi Fo Sho from Sunday 2 July 2017 at 18h00, uncovering Mzansi s best hip hop dance crew in one of the biggest dance competitions South Africa has ever seen. Over 13 weeks the crews, each made up of four or five dancers, will hustle to win the streets of Mzansi and the R100 000 in prize money.The crews will dance off before the judges, who will have the ultimate say about who will be sent packing.

Sipho Ndlovu, better known by his kwaito name Brickz, has been found guilty of rape in the Roodepoort Magistrate's Court on Friday, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said. NPA spokesperson Phindi Louw told News24 that he would appear in court on July 20 for sentencing. Brickz was found guilty of raping a 17-year-old relative in November 2013. He had spent a month in jail before being released on R50 000 bail after taking his application to the Johannesburg High Court. The 'Sweety my Baby' singer had started getting back into making music in 2015. In the same year, he was arrested and charged with assault after he allegedly threatened to kill his lover.

Social Media++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Kenya: Social Media, Messaging Rules to Tame Chaos

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has drafted guidelines which will restrict the use of social media on political messaging before and after the August 8 elections to avoid instability in the country.

The guidelines released by the commission chair Francis Kaparo, seek to prevent the transmission of undesirable political content using text messages and social media posts.

Coming at a time of heightened political activity in the country ahead of next month's polls, the guidelines also bar political messages that are offensive, abusive, insulting, misleading, confusing, obscene or profane language.

Mobile phone operators have been given the power to stop circulation of the messages deemed to be inflammatory.

"The message shall not contain inciting, threatening or discriminatory language that may or is intended to expose an individual or group of individuals to violence, hatred, hostility, discrimination or ridicule on the basis of ethnicity, tribe, race, colour, religion, gender or disability," the guidelines state.

The rules also dictate that no bulk text messages will be in vernacular. In 2008, over 1,300 lives were lost due to post-election related violence that was largely blamed on hate speech.

Information and Communication Technology Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru was upbeat with the guidelines noting that his ministry will work closely with that of Interior to deal with "issues very fast."

"We have held several consultative meetings and have ensured we have both online and offline teams monitoring the political messaging," Mr Mucheru said.

The CS also dismissed fears on why parliament had not been involved in the adoption of the regulations and whether it was an attempt to introduce censorship through the backdoor, saying that those found to have violated the law will be dealt with fairly.

"It is clear that the guidelines are dealing with what is not allowed. This is our country and we want to ensure that we have a country that is safe.

"If someone is caught, they will be taken through the legal process. The judiciary enforces the law, so there is nothing sinister about this," he said.

Those who violate the guidelines will be punished in line with the NCIC Act, the penal code and other relevant laws.

The NCIC Act provides a minimum of Sh1 million fine or a jail term of not exceeding three years or both.

Those sending the messages are required to avoid a tone and words that constitute hate speech, ethnic contempt and incitement to violence, harassment, abuse, violence, defamation or intimidation.

"The rules provide that it shall be the responsibility of the content author to authenticate, validate the source and truthfulness of their content prior to publishing," the guidelines say.

Prior to sending a political message, the content service providers are required to make a request to a mobile network operator at least 48 hours before sending the message.

The request shall include verbatim content of the political message, signed authorisation letter from the political party or individual sponsoring the message.

Content shall then be vetted by the mobile network operator to ensure compliance and notify the requesting entity within 18 hours of submission of the request.

However, the network operator has the right to refuse the transmission of a proposed message it views does not comply with the set guidelines.
Source: Daily Nation

This Is Where That Viral Meme You Keep Seeing About Being Extra Comes From

DIASPORA—You may or may not have seen the following viral clip of a young man’s wonderfully dramatic death scene, floating around your timeline in the past few days.

If you have not, you need to stop whatever you’re doing right now and watch it, because nothing you could possibly be doing is more important than this.

The astounding level of excessiveness in the young man’s performance has the internet cackling, and many are curious as to what movie this wonderfully dramatic clip is from.

We now have the answer. After some very intense and thoroughgoing research, we’ve discovered that the clip is from a parody of the peculiar 1992 South African apartheid-themed musical Sarafina!, starring Miriam Makeba, Whoopi Goldberg, Leleti Khumalo, and John Kani. The parody called Saratina, hit YouTube last December and stars Kenyan comedian Eric Omondi.

The 10-minute video is hilarious the whole way through. You can watch it here:

WeChat’s African Adventure

Tencent’s WeChat has already conquered China. Can it do the same in South Africa?. Brett Loubser, CEO of Tencent Africa Services talked to MEF’s Tim Green about rising to the challenge for MEF’s free Africa eBulletin.

Fans of South African radio DJ Gareth Cliff have an interesting way of engaging with their favourite shock jock. Basically, they can ‘add’ him. In 2014, Cliff decided to do something different with his popular show CliffCentral. He was frustrated with broadcasting rules that limited what he could say. And he was exasperated that he couldn’t engage more directly with his listeners. So he migrated the show over to WeChat.

Today, WeChat users in South Africa can go to ‘add contacts’, find ‘official accounts’, type in CliffCentral and add the show. Thereafter, they just tap ‘listen’ to take part in the fun.

Of course, it is also possible for fans to listen to the show online and debate it on Twitter et al. The difference with WeChat is that the whole experience happens inside one app. In 12 months, CliffCentral amassed more than 131,000 followers this way.

For Brett Loubser, CEO of WeChat Africa, CliffCentral illustrates the most compelling benefit of WeChat. It’s not an app. It’s a platform.

He says: “Cliff has effectively built a fully digital radio station: the perfect showcase for him. But he’s done it for a fraction of the cost and time he would have spent developing an app. In fact, it was five weeks from first meeting to going live.”

CliffCentral is helping popularise an app that has, of course, come to dominate China. There, the app is so popular it effectively substitutes for the Internet itself. Over 700 million people use it to look at maps, order taxis, pay bills, find dates, get loans, play games and more. It has more than 10 million third-party apps.

Needless to say, WeChat South Africa has fewer. But Loubser is working hard to change that. He has faith he can. WeChat Africa has powerful backers. It is a joint venture between Chinese owner Tencent and South Africa’s media giant, Naspers. And there’s a strong tradition of social messaging in South Africa, which had its own homegrown chat app, MXit, long before most other countries (MXit closed in 2016).

Though WeChat faces strong competition from WhatsApp, Loubser believes its platform qualities can help it succeed. He says: “App development is expensive and developers are hard to find.

Our job is to show startups that they can get a service live extremely fast and they don’t have to worry about payments or location and so on. It’s all baked in. Adding any new feature is just adding an API. It’s many times cheaper and many times faster than building an app.”
“Cliff has effectively built a fully digital radio station: the perfect showcase for him. But he’s done it for a fraction of the cost and time he would have spent developing an app.”

And there are similar benefits for end users. “There’s a certain amount of payload if you want to download an app,” adds Loubser. “There’s the data cost and finding space on the phone. It’s all much simpler inside WeChat.”

To encourage startups to try the platform, WeChat announced a 50 million rand ($3.5 million) seed fund, which backed micro-jobbing service M4Jam (Money for Jam) and delivery service Picup among others. It also teamed up with Standard Bank to create WeChat Wallet. Users can connect their debit and credit cards to it, and withdraw cash at ATMs by entering a code.
Bank to the future

Standard Bank also uses WeChat to offer ‘always on banking’. Users can message an agent at any time and receive a response inside the app.

Loubser says this asynchronous experience works for both sides. “It’s so much better than IVR and being on hold with elevator music,” he says. “Psychologically people don’t mind waiting for a response, even if it takes an hour, as long as they feel in control. And the system lets agents manage multiple queries at once, so it’s more efficient.”
Source: MEF

In Brief

BBM is in discussions with mobile operators in South Africa regarding subsidised data for its messaging application. This is part of its drive to partner with operators to offer better services for consumers, the CEO of Creative Media Works, Matthew Talbot, told MyBroadband. Creative Media Works, a division of PT Elang Mahkota Teknologi, bought the rights to operate BBM on non-BlackBerry devices in June 2016.Talbot said they hope to create packages for BBM that are similar to the deals BlackBerry had for its devices in South Africa.


Radio life without FM: Exiled Burundian radio journalists broadcast on WhatsApp

A media crackdown couldn’t keep these Burundian journalists down. They have resorted to using WhatsApp to reach their audiences.

Some 25 journalists are crowded around a dining room table in an ordinary suburban house in Kigali, Rwanda. It’s a news meeting like many others, and the items are pretty standard: peace talks in Arusha, a petrol shortage in Bujumbura, an arrested journalist. But this is an unusual news team. This is Radio Inzamba, a project of radio journalists exiled from their country, neighbouring Burundi.

Which means that covering those stories is not easy. The petrol shortage, due to European Union (EU) sanctions, will have to be covered on the phone as the journalists can’t travel back to their home country. Informants run severe risks if they work with Inzamba, so elaborate precautions have to be made to call them at certain times, and if their voices are to be used on air, they have to be distorted to protect their identities.

There’s a particular edge to the discussion about the arrested journalist. He is a correspondent for the German international service Deutsche Welle, and was arrested across the border in the DRC while visiting refugee camps. Today, he’s due to be handed over to the Burundi authorities, and there is concern about what will happen then. This is a colleague, and the government in Bujumbura is known to be responsible for political trials and disappearances, even assassinations.

Further, the talks in Arusha can’t be covered by just anybody. The regime of President Pierre Nkurunziza has issued arrest warrants against some of the journalists, and the mediator, former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, has indicated that these reporters should not attend. Inzamba’s news meeting gets sidetracked into a discussion of what Mkapa’s ruling says about his neutrality. The journalists are not impressed.

But the most unusual aspect of this project is that having had their stations closed down back home, they have resorted to a new platform to reach their audiences: WhatsApp. Two versions of a news show are produced every day, each around 20 to 30 minutes in length, one in the national language Kirundi, the other in French, and sent out as audio files on WhatsApp.

Alexandre Nyiungeko, one of three directors of Inzamba, says individual staff have a number of groups — WhatsApp limits the size of a group to 256 members — and send out the shows around 7pm, as well as posting them on a website and other platforms. The members of those initial groups can, and do, forward the file to their own circles, and so the audience builds in a classically viral way.

A similar model is used by another group of exiled journalists, Humura Burundi, a project of Radio Publique Africaine (RPA). Humura also make use of shortwave and have a partnership with a community radio station across the border in the DRC who rebroadcast their material, reaching parts of Bujumbura, according to director Bob Rugurika. But WhatsApp remains primary, reaching audiences inside Burundi, in the diaspora and among the hundreds of thousands of people now in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, whose need for news from back home is particularly acute.

Although it depends on the availability of smartphones and some data, the technique is remarkably successful.

An audience survey conducted by an NGO in late 2016 revealed that Inzamba reaches just over 300,000 people over 18 in Burundi. Adding in younger listeners and those in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, that adds up to a sizeable audience for an unconventional platform. The same survey estimates Humura’s audience at just over 400 000 adults.

Rugurika estimates that the audience is significantly larger but it is still far below the numbers the independent radio stations attracted when they were broadcasting on FM from inside the country. RPA used to be the biggest broadcaster in Burundi by a sizeable margin, bigger than the state broadcaster RTNB. According to a 2013 audience survey by French company IMMAR, RPA had an audience of around 2.5 million people — a share of 38% of the available audience, while RTNB had only 29%.

The journalists of Humura and Inzamba see their role as being to prevent such a slide. Alexandre Nyiungeko, one of three directors of Inzamba, says: “Our obsession is to see Burundi not to plunge into ethnic chaos or civil war. We want peace, the rule of law, all democratic values. We denounce hate speech.”
Humura director, Rugurika says he believes the work of the radio projects has reduced the number of killings. He argues that where news is broadcast of a disappearance, it allows family members to ask questions, which in turn means the individual may be held under arrest rather than murdered.

The journalists have just marked two years in exile. Much has been achieved in terms of reach and influence, even though recording facilities remain rudimentary, transport is scarce and salaries uncertain.

The projects are beginning to talk about the next steps: how to further improve their reach with other channels besides WhatsApp; how to serve the audiences in the refugee camps better, how to develop new formats of shows. The ultimate aim, though, is for a political settlement that allows them to return.

Willie Nkurunziza, leader of the Burundian exile community in Rwanda, has high praise for the radio projects: “Those journalists are heroes, they are doing extraordinary work. If there is peace in Burundi, it will be those two programmes who will say so and people will go back easily.”
Source: Jamlab

South Africa: Online Radio Pioneer Gareth Cliff on lessons learnt

The Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA) recently held its Apex Masterclass, bringing together industry players and experts from the marketing, communications and advertising sectors.

One of the speakers at the gathering was media personality, entrepreneur and founder of CliffCentral, Gareth Cliff. He spoke on a variety of topics from why he left the SABC and the lessons he’s learnt from three years of running CliffCentral to his views on Donald Trump and Bell Pottinger.

Cliff prefaced his talk with some good news for attendees: “Nobody really knows. And I think if anyone claims to, you should treat them with a great deal of suspicion. The big picture certainly, they can know parts of it, but none of us know the whole story and it’s evolving so quickly, much like the news cycle, that what you know now is just about out of date by next week.”

Touting himself and his presentation as a “champion of audio” Cliff espoused the benefits of the medium, particularly highlighting it as the one place where long-form journalism or storytelling can still be utilised effectively. “We have a hard-wired evolutionary predisposition to taking in information, whether it’s information, entertainment, news, or gossip, by listening. For 100,000 years, that’s the best way to communicate with someone,” he says adding people can listen to audio while doing other things.

Cliff delivered four lessons he has learnt during his time at the helm of CliffCentral, starting with authenticity. “It’s a big part of CliffCentral, because that’s what I care about. I have never been very good at pretending to care about things that I don’t care about and dramatising stuff that isn’t dramatic and I’ve never really had much time for political correctness,” he says.

“Audiences online can immediately smell when you are selling them nonsense. And they don’t come back after that. You lose them once and you’ve lost them”.

As long as you don’t sell them rubbish then podcast audiences can be incredibly loyal, Cliff reckons. CliffCentral’s audiences are an example of this, as they have been increasing incrementally not exponentially. “Incrementally is almost a greater endorsement of what you are doing by the audience because it means those people are telling other people and they’re telling other people and it is spreading by word of mouth, rather than it is just a trend”.

An example of someone who is doing communication right, Cliff believes, is US President Donald Trump. “Perhaps the President of the United States is a reprehensible person, but he should be some kind of a template for anybody who wants to get an idea across … Watch him take CNN down to absolute nonsense and rubbish and make it worthless by the end of his term.”
Niche is better than mass

His second lesson was that brands can no longer do the hard sell anymore, forcing their branding, product, logo and/or service into people’s lives. “They’ve got to want it. Years ago we would programme to a target audience and you’d hopefully hit the sweet spot. Today the audience chooses you as a content producer and they come to you as they care about the content you deliver,” he says.

Cliff compared this to fish jumping into the boat, rather than a brand out there fishing for attention, and reckons quality, relatable content is key to keeping them coming back. This, he believes, has led to a need for a change in mindset. “Niche audiences are more valuable and you should pay a premium for them, because you are going to get what you want, than a broad, mainstream, reach audience,” says Cliff.

The importance of storytelling was Cliff’s third lesson. “Particularly with audio, you can tell one story to 100,000 people and they all see a different picture. The activation of imagination is something the other senses can’t put together on their own… and it’s personal when it’s like that as sometimes you are in the story”.

In an age of big data this can be problematic for brands as they may lose the human element by constantly focusing on the numbers. Cliff’s advice, “In an abundance of big data we tend to become statisticians. I do feel we lose the human element of why we are in marketing, advertising, media, broadcasting. You’re in it to connect to someone and that can’t be reduced to figures.”
Source: The Media Online

Ghana: Radio Station Raided, Forced Off Air for Allowing Hate Speech

The Bureau of National Investigations, BNI, on June 30, 2017, stormed the studios of Zaa Radio, located in Tamale, in the Northern Region of Ghana and forced the network to suspend broadcasting for about an hour over concerns that it was being used to fan religious conflict.

The raid followed tension in the Tamale Metropolis after a group of scholars from one Muslim community known as Ambariyya, used invectives and swear words against the leaders of a rival group, Masjid Baya, during their weekly sermon on Zaa Radio.

Claiming that the host had denied him the right to respond to the attacks during the live programme, Abu Dhujal, one of the leaders of the Masjid Bayan group, reportedly recorded a video and published it on social media application WhatsApp, calling on members of the group to converge at a popular football ground for a message.

According to the BNI, the video had to potential to result in chaos therefore a decision was taken to stop the broadcast of the radio programmes which according to them was the "source of the tension."

The intelligence agency kept some armed personnel on the premises of the radio station to ward off possible attacks, because the radio station had received anonymous calls and messages threatening to burn down the network.

This is not the first time that Zaa radio has been in the centre of religious conflict. In 2012, the station was attacked in the midst of violent clashes between two rival Muslim sects, Ahli-Sunna and Tijanniya. The attack was believed to have been due the station's alleged bias towards one of the sects.

Meanwhile, the Northern regional Minister, Salifu Ssaeed, has warned religious leaders in Tamale to be temperate in their sermons on radio in order to avoid creating unnecessary tension.

The MFWA also urges media organisations not to offer their platforms to extremists and other persons to propagate hate speech or stir religious strife.
Source: Media Foundation for West Africa

In Brief

Africanews’ app is now available on the App Store, the Africanews application offers free access to all iPhone and iPad users to all articles published on the website, all programs and Live TV. The first Africanews app allows you to follow pan-African and international news anywhere and at any time. The Africanews app is available for free at the Apple Store in both English and French. To download the app, click here:

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Media Future: Can VR become a billion-user platform?

Virtual reality is suddenly the flavour of the moment, for anything from product launches to test drives. Now a gaming guru believes it will be the next billion-user platform.

In November 2016, iconic car brand, Jaguar, set the marketing world alight with the launch of its I-PACE Concept, an all-electric sport utility vehicle — not because the car looked so great but because the Los Angeles event was the world’s first live virtual reality (VR) unveiling of a new vehicle.

Five groups of 66 guests, at the launch venue and in a VR hub in London, were fitted with HTC Vive Business Edition headsets, powered by Dell Precision workstations. This gave them an almost photo-realistic experience of being inside the concept car and interacting live with other participants. The big deal? They could watch the concept built piece by piece around them while a live presenter explained what was happening.

Now, Mercedes-Benz South Africa has put together a series of virtual reality campaigns, working with animation agency, Sinister Studio, to develop four test-drive videos. The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé, E-Class, AMG C 63 and a new range of roadsters and cabriolets have all been given the VR treatment.

Suddenly, VR has moved out of the gaming and gimmicks realm to become a serious marketing option. The problem is that only a few people own VR headsets.

“In 2017, VR is a niche technology,” says Piers Harding-Rolls, research director of global research consultancy, IHS Markit. “The market is going to grow, but it will still be a niche market by 2020.” Speaking at the IFA global press conference in Lisbon recently, he said it would take three-to-five years for the technology to broaden its appeal.

As a result, it was startling to hear one of the gurus of the gaming world declare in May 2017 that VR, along with augmented reality (AR) — which overlays digital information on the real world — would be “the next billion-user platform”. “We can expect a revolution in computer graphics to change the way people interact with computers,” said Tim Sweeney, founder of leading gaming software company, Epic Games, part owned by Tencent — which is in turn part-owned by South Africa’s Naspers.

Sweeney was talking during a “guru session” at Dell EMC World, an annual event in Las Vegas, where he shared the stage with Frank Azor, co-founder of Alienware, an iconic gaming computer brand owned by Dell.

Azof shared Sweeney’s enthusiasm: “This revolution is not 10 or 20 years away. Much like the PC industry in the 1980s, VR has come very far in very short time, but we have a lot more tools and technology today than we had 30 years ago. There’s been a little pessimism around the take-up of VR. It’s been 14 months since the Oculus Rift and HTC have been around. People expected 10m headsets in use by now, and there’s only a million.”
It’s coming

But, said Azof, it’s coming. The fact that it was now in use in motoring, real estate and even hospitals was the signal: “If you’re not already working on how to apply these technologies into your businesses and into your lives, you’re already behind.” He gave the example of real-estate businesses that now show homes to prospective buyers in a much more-immersive way than relying on pictures and descriptions.

“You don’t need to deploy a US$2000 high-end rig. A US$100 set of glasses can give you a pretty immersive experience. Small and large hospitals use it for patient education. We learn better through experience than through literature, so hospital discharge information is being put into an experience instead of the patient reading literature.”

Sweeney believes the reason it hasn’t taken off until now is that VR doesn’t allow for the high tolerance that PC or mobile game players have for graphics that aren’t realistic. “VR has to be realistic because it has to convince you that you’re immersed in the real world. Even for non-photo-realistic animated experiences, your brain still has high expectations of how graphics appear around you, how lights reflect in eyes, and so on.”

The answer lies in photo-realistic computer graphics being rendered in real-time, meaning that the scene changes instantly and in a realistic way as one moves through it, with accurate simulations of how light interacts with objects in the real world. “This requires an enormous amount of detail in an object, and it becomes impractical for artists to draw every object. Now artists can scan objects in the real world and use geometry and other techniques for rendering and accurately simulating the way cameras work in the real world.

“Outside the games industry, we are seeing a lot of non-fiction, non-game stuff, like architectural renderings in real time. Architects have high expectations of real-time rendering, accurate shading of wood, and the like.”

“The next really interesting step is multiplayer games. Doom was the first game that really defined multiplayers, but they haven’t changed much in 20 years. All lo-fi and low bandwidth, you shooting and having simple dialogue; it’s not very interesting. We’re going to see more change in multiplayer gaming in the next two years than in the last 20 years. This is the most exciting time I’ve ever seen in the industry. These funny VR helmets you wear now are just the start of the revolution.”
Source: Mark Lives
Watch South African Gerard Slee on his new VR game A Little Fire and VR potential in Africa:

In Brief

Burnand, a former head of project management and innovations lead at Aqua, has been tasked with delivering user-first interactive products for a global tech client recently acquired by Clockwork Media. This includes overseeing the UX, design, and web development for the client, looking after their non-US markets. Clockwork Media is the lead agency for the global tech account and will be reporting directly to the London head office.

Digital marketing agency HoneyKome (a company in the Ole! Media Group), has announced the promotion of Sheharazaad Allie to the position of director of operations. As such she will have the primary role of managing the daily operations – overseeing the conceptual, creative and productions teams as well as the client services division.  She will also provide input into the strategic direction for the fast growing agency.

Telkom has concluded its advertising account review and pitch, and has announced the appointment of three agencies to take its marketing communications forward. Wunderman South Africa Demographica Retail Insight Integrated agency, Wunderman (WPP), will take over the provision of above-the-line creative and digital marketing, while direct marketing will be managed by Demographica. Retail and brand activations goes to Retail Insight.

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GameMine partners with South African mobile carrier Vodacom

Mobile game publisher GameMine Inc. has entered into a strategic partnership to provide its subscription-based mobile games to South African mobile carrier Vodacom Group.

Los Angeles-based GameMine said it is providing a selection of its ad-free mobile games, which include more than 175 titles spanning all major mobile gaming genres, free of charge to Vodacom subscribers during a promotional trial period.

Vodacom is partnering with mobile gaming subscription service GameMine.

"GameMine recognizes the distinct value and importance of South Africa's thriving mobile carrier market as an appropriate demographic region for our company's product, as well as an early trend indicator for the African continent's entire mobile industry," GameMine Chief Executive Daniel Starr said in a statement.

The company said the partnership will significantly boost its global subscriber base as well as its exposure in international mobile carrier markets. Vodacom's South African iPhone and Android users will have access to GameMine's mobile games in a fully-unlocked, ad-free manner.

GameMine develops, licenses and acquires mobile games, then provides them to consumers in more than 135 countries through a subscription-based mobile game marketplace. With a global network of developers and gaming experts, multiple mobile carrier partnerships, and a presence on Google Play, the company aims to offer a variety of genre-based mobile gaming portals for a wide range of gaming interests.
Source: Biz

In Brief

Nigeria’s Wakanow, an online travel agency has officially launched in East Africa in a pan-African expansion drive to bring its innovative travel services to the travelers around the continent.

South African ecommerce and pay-TV group Naspers said on Thursday its subsidiary Myriad International Holdings B.V is exploring the possibility of an international U.S. dollar bond offering. Naspers, Africa's biggest listed company by market size, said its subsidiary would launch a roadshow to meet potential investors, but gave no timeframe. "Proceeds from the offering, if completed, are expected to be used for general corporate purposes and to repay MIH B.V.'s existing notes maturing in July 2017," Naspers said in a statement.

Nigeria: Peda Studio, a character-based media company that retells African stories using comics, has just raised seed funding of $10,000 from an angel investor. The investment is a generous offer from one Mr. Emeka Chris Obiagwu. He will join the startup as an executive director, to help take it to the next phase of growth. Founded by Peter Daniel, the startup originally operated as an IT firm but pivoted in January 2017 into an entertainment company. Working alongside Daniel as partners are Austine Osas and Frank Mmobuosi, based in the United States. Peda Studio aims to drive the growth of the African comic market, as it publishes various African-inspired comics available both online and in physical copies. With the funding, the startup will be looking to expand its offline reach by printing more copies for bookstores, eateries and schools nationwide while also vying for more online users. The startup also plans to expand to neighbouring African countries (Ghana, South Africa and Kenya).

Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB) has announced its investment in M-Shule, a Kenyan-based ed-tech startup that uses SMS to deploy tailored education content.Launched earlier this year, M-Shule is an adaptive, mobile learning management platform designed for primary school students across Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Russell Southwood
Smart Monkey TV

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Christopher Baker-Brian, BBOX on how start-up BBOXX is providing off-grid solutions to Africa

Christopher Baker-Brian, CTO, BBOXX talks about: the idea for the company; how its off-grid service is supplied; the number of people using the service; controlling its off-grid boxes using mobile connections and its future expansion plans.

Izu Ojukwu on his current film 76 and his forthcoming film about warrior Queen Amina of Zazzau

Nigerian film-maker Izu Ojukwu talks about: the story in 76; Nigeria’s “decision-making” decade; the importance of understanding history; and his latest film that is in post production about Queen Amina of Zazzau.

Sara Gamay, Cairo Angels on its investments and the start-up sector in Egypt

Sara Gamay, Cairo Angels talks about: the founding of Cairo Angels and why it happened; some examples of the start-ups they have invested in; the scale of investment; how they assess start-ups; one of the key incubators in Cairo; the exits that have happened; and future opportunities.

Chika Uwazie on Nigerian HR and payroll start-up TalentBase that is raising US$2 million to expand

Co-founder and CEO Chika Uwazie, TalentBase talks about: how the idea for the company came about; why it’s timing was good; how it pays people without bank accounts; how it will get beyond orgaic growth; and its latest fundraising round.

Missy Mwendwa and Roselyn Awili on how edtech start-up Eneza reaches 1.8 million students

Missy Mwendwa, Chief Business Development Officer and Roselyn Awili, Content Manager, Eneza talk about: how the platform works; the number of students active monthly on the platform; how it gets its revenues; the countries it operates in and the ones it is expanding to; how its content is created; teacher feedback for students; and the kinds of phones the service can be used on.

Walt Banger on his Nollywood Noir film and his next film Area Dogs

Film director Walt Banger talks about: the story in; how it presents a different view of the Lagos police; when it will be released in Nigeria; why the film is very different; and the origins of Nollywood Noir.

Joshua Mwaniki and Mbithe Nzomo on how Andela will create 100,000 African developers

Joshua Mwaniki, Country Director, Andela and Mbithe Nzomo, Software Developer, Andela talk about: its ambitious target to close the developer talent gap in Africa; how it recruits and trains software developers; its Fellowships and the real-life projects they work on; its online distributed learning communities; its work with Google; and what it means to be a Fellow.

Arnaud Blanchet, Last Mile for BoP on an app to help informal shops get cheaper goods

Arnaud Blanchet, Founder, Last Mile for BoP talks about: the problem of the poverty premium and how it affects those living in the townships in South Africa; how the app helps Spaza (informal) shop owners; what savings they are able to make; the social products it wants to sell to these outlets; the changing ownership of Spaza shops; and investors in Last Mile for BoP.

Moses Babatope, Executive Producer, The Wedding Party on The Wedding Party Pt 2 Destination Dubai

Moses Babatope, Group Executive Director, Filmhouse Cinemas and Film One Distribution and Production and Executive Producer, The Wedding Party talks about: why The Wedding Party was the highest grossing film at the box office in Nigeria; the release on 15 December 2017 of The Wedding Party Pt 2: Destination Dubai; the success of The Wedding Party on Netflix; and the slate of five other films it has in production.

Veronica Ogeto-Tchoketch on how Safaricom is investing in the Kenyan start-up ecosystem

Veronica Ogeto-Tchoketch, Head of Innovation, Safaricom talks about: how Safaricom views innovation, internally and externally; the investments made by its Spark Fund; its opening of an innovation space in August/September 2017; and the attitude of the telco to things like revenue share.

Katlego on her collection of poems that question what’s normal in terms of gender

Katlego K Kolanyane-Kesupile talks about: his collection of poems On About the Same Old Things and the different topics they cover; why he never identified as either a girl or a boy; how he regards being normal; and his ambition to change the world.