Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Africa hungry for homegrown online content

By Michelle Atagana, Special to CNN
April 3, 2013 -- Updated 1038 GMT (1838 HKT)
Surfing the internet at a cyber cafe in Nairobi, Kenya.
Surfing the internet at a cyber cafe in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • For Africans, the internet is a content enabler, writes Michelle Atagana
  • Africans in the diaspora are underexposed to content from the continent, she says
  • Bozza, iROKO and Wabona are startups distributing African content online

Editor's note: Michelle Atagana is the managing editor of, a social media and technology news site. She has a Masters Degree in New Media and Journalism, her thesis focuses on social media technologies in the South African journalistic space with some focus on the public sphere.

(CNN) -- Things have never been more exciting in Africa than they are now. The continent's rising economy and burgeoning tech space is all anyone can talk about. At a recent South by Southwest panel, "Africa or Bust! Content, Monetization, Opportunity," it was made clear that mobile and connectivity is also changing the content game.

Reportedly, around 140 million people in Africa have access to the internet, which represents about 13% of the population. That number is set to explode in the next few years. By 2020, internet penetration in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to reach 24.7%.

Read also: 'Africa's tallest building' set for $10 billion tech city

Michelle Atagana
Michelle Atagana

For Africans, the internet is not just a way to connect with the rest of the world, or even with friends -- it's a content enabler. It is also a commerce facilitator. The African consumer is on the rise; they are hungry for interaction, hungry for e-commerce purchases and they are hungry for content.

As a society, Africa is learning what it means to spend money on content delivered via a mobile device and computer screens, especially content that is designed for the continent. Large numbers of devices are shipped into the continent from the United States and Asia annually helping grow this new taste for spending.

"Africans want their own content, content that's by them and for them ... There is a lot of cool stuff happening in this space," said Richard Essex, partner in East Africa Capital Partners, quoted in the Financial Times last month.

According to a Nielsen report, mobile video is increasingly popular in emerging market regions such as Africa. That report stated: "Mobile video is particularly prominent in Asia-Pacific and Middle East/African regions, where 74 and 72% of online consumers, respectively, report watching video on mobile phones at least once a month, and almost 40% (38% and 37%, respectively) say they do so at least once a day."

What is behind Nollywood's success?
Is Nollywood embracing quality?

Africa's biggest play into online content consumption to date is iROKO Partners, a platform that provides Nigerians in the diaspora with Nollywood films. Dubbed "Africa's Netflix," the company is streaming not just movies but also music through its iRoking music-streaming platform.

Secrets of a Nollywood film set

The success of iROKO has given rise to a new breed of consumer. These are people who've found that now that content comes to them, they are interested in having access to it.

Currently iROKO delivers Nigerian content to the world but what about the rest of Africa?

Read also: 'Netflix of Africa' brings Nollywood to world

Africans in the diaspora aren't exposed to other content from the continent and somehow it seems that the rest of Africa isn't producing the same addictive content as the rest of the world.

Southern Africa is catching up and getting ready to begin providing content to Africans in the diaspora. Wabona is a new startup hoping to replicate the success of iROKO by building its own online pay-per-view video streaming service designed to deliver African and international video content to the African Diaspora and Africa as a whole.

Content is everything and technology is its biggest enabler. One of the key factors that have been identified about mobile devices is their role in content creation. Focused on local made-for-mobile content, Bozza is a South Africa-based startup that provides an application that offers artists, filmmakers and entrepreneurs a mobile platform through which to distribute their content.

Partnerships are beginning to emerge between the platforms and the content providers.
Michelle Atagana

According to Bozza, its mission is to connect content and technology in Africa. Its website states that: "Content drives the uptake of technology; yet despite the global increase and focus on the value of content, there continues to be a lack of locally generated, contextually relevant content for the African market."

The African consumer gets it as well. Mobile social networks like Mxit and 2Go understand the importance of content. Partnerships are beginning to emerge between the platforms and the content providers. Mxit has created a movie portal that allows its users to watch feature-length pieces in five to six parts.

Read also: Mxit: South Africa's Facebook beater

According to former Mxit CEO Alan Knott-Craig, Africans are so hungry for content that those of them that have not previously had access to free content online are more willing and likely to pay for it that those with more access and means.

Pushing African content at this moment is a very critical phase in Africa's rise to join the ongoing tech revolution.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michelle Atagana.

Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Africa
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1100 GMT (1900 HKT)
Fish from the tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho are served in top Tokyo sushi spots.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1323 GMT (2123 HKT)
The world-famous waterfall is inspiring a local tourism boom as an increasing number of people is visiting Zimbabwe.
November 11, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
Seychelles needed more than pristine beaches and choral reefs to boost its once troubled tourism industry.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
A general view of the Hout Bay harbour covered in mist is seen on May 8, 2010 from the Chapman's peak road on the outskirts of Cape Town. Chapman's peak road is the coastal link between Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope. When following the African coastline from the equator the Cape of Good Hope marks the psychologically important point where one begins to travel more eastward than southward, thus the first rounding of the cape in 1488 by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias was a major milestone in the attempts by the Portuguese to establish direct trade relations with the Far East. He called the cape Cabo Tormentoso. As one of the great capes of the South Atlantic Ocean, the Cape of Good Hope has been of special significance to sailors for many years and is widely referred to by them simply as 'the Cape'. It is a major milestone on the clipper route followed by clipper ships to the Far East and Australia, and still followed by several offshore yacht races. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)
Abandoned workshops and empty warehouses are getting a new lease of life in Cape Town.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1037 GMT (1837 HKT)
Inside a glove factory on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, busy laborers turn patches of leather into these fashionable garments.
October 9, 2014 -- Updated 1050 GMT (1850 HKT)
The Somali capital now has its first-ever ATM bank machine -- and it dispenses U.S. dollars.
October 9, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Waves lap at the ships as they pull into the Port of Ngqura, but no swell is stopping the local economy booming.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 1524 GMT (2324 HKT)
In Uganda, a group of landmine victims are using banana fiber to create rope, profit and community.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1337 GMT (2137 HKT)
What does it mean to be Nigerian? That's the question on the lips of many in Nigeria as new national identity cards are being rolled out.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1105 GMT (1905 HKT)
 General view of an oil offshore platform owned by Total Fina Elf in the surroundings waters of the Angolan coast 15 October 2003. The 11 members of the OPEC oil cartel have agreed to slash output by a million barrels a day, the OPEC president said 11 October 2006, in a move aimed at shoring up sliding world crude prices.
Six of the top 10 global oil and gas discoveries last year were made in Africa -- but can these finds transform the continent?
February 20, 2014 -- Updated 1121 GMT (1921 HKT)
A South African app allows buyers to pay for goods using their phone, without having to worry about carrying cash or credit cards.
December 13, 2013 -- Updated 0027 GMT (0827 HKT)
African astronomers want world-class observatories to inspire young scientists and build a tech economy.
February 19, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
A Zambian computer tablet -- known as the ZEduPad -- is trying to open up the country's information highway.
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
South Africa may be the dominant force in Africa's wine economy, but other countries are making inroads in the industry.
October 10, 2013 -- Updated 0927 GMT (1727 HKT)
Eko Atlantic city design concept
A lack of infrastructure has hindered Africa's development, but a series of megaprojects could change that.
Each week Marketplace Africa covers the continent's macro trends and interviews a major player from the region's business community.