Digital media in Africa has grown rapidly over the last decade, primarily driven by a meteoric increase in the availability and use of cheap mobile phones with internet access. Africa currently has over 960 million mobile subscribers, representing about an 80% penetration rate among the continent's population. Although internet penetration still has some catching up to do, these two factors generally set the stage for what has been the coming of age of digital media in Africa.
To give some context, one of our publications, Zikoko, records more than 90% of audience visits from mobile and you would find similar trends across a wide range of publications.
The availability of large audiences with access to the internet via mobile devices has driven both publishers and solo creators to provide a wide range of content for those audiences.
These movements have come in waves, from an early onslaught by blogs to a wave of traditional media publishers moving online, then digital native media companies like ours building content in new niches and with original approaches and most recently, a wave of solo creators creating content for audience consumption across social media.
It’s a combination of a number of things. Media is a hard business globally, and it has perhaps not been the sexiest investment area over the last few decades. Combine that with Africa’s general macroeconomic challenges, and you’ll find that most investors have been keener on investing in safer spaces, that they also know better.
One more important factor is the lack of experienced operators in the space. While we’ve made a ton of progress in media sub-sectors like music and movies, spaces like digital publishing have not seen enough experimentation and investment to build a large pool of experienced operators. There’s a bit of a chicken and egg challenge there.
One of our goals at Big Cabal is to show that we can build huge, influential media brands and that the business itself can be both profitable and scalable, hence exciting to a new crop of investors.
Most definitely! It has been refreshing to see investors taking a lot more interest in the African startup ecosystem (fintech, edtech, healthtech etc) and I expect that with time, we will see this growing interest widen across a broader segment to then include African media.
Earlier this year, we closed a seed series fundraising round at $2.3m, which is a testament to both the good work we do at Big Cabal Media and also the growing criticality and potential of the African media landscape.
Although we are one of the few media/tech organisations to achieve this feat usually reserved for African fintechs and the likes, we believe the media industry needs a lot more investment to help boost value creation, amplify awareness, improve the existing systems and more - all geared towards making the African media landscape a more powerful force to be reckoned with.
We'd like to see more investors pay attention to this market since there's a lot of impact to be had and some very great businesses to be built. The sheer size of Africa and the rise in digital literacy and media consumption open up a significant market opportunity for investors to tap into.
At Big Cabal, we want to shape how African stories are told and continue to lead the most engaging conversations around innovation, entrepreneurship and culture as we have always done via our platforms, Zikoko and TechCabal.
Today’s media ecosystem and information environment is such that everyone now has a voice and it is becoming increasingly difficult to sieve through the noise to find credible, vetted information.
Great reporting however takes time and care, and a standard of due diligence and professionalism is often unavailable to the casual commentator. The role of journalists, and credible media platforms is to do the work that the casual commentator cannot do; conducting in-depth research, building networks of contacts and sources, providing context to news reports and giving the public authoritative information they might not get otherwise.
Technology has had a huge impact on the African media landscape. The first and most important, which we’ve already discussed, is how it’s given audiences all over the continent access to the internet and content from around the globe. That has in turn created many more avenues for media companies all over the continent to create relevant content for this ever-growing audience.
Whether through websites, social media platforms or streaming platforms like Netflix and Showmax, it has never been easier to create content that attains global reach, and that opens increased monetisation and influence building opportunities as well, all of which is good for African media businesses.
At Big Cabal, we’re excited about these opportunities. Zikoko’s rise as one of the most important outlets for youth culture and concerns happened in the context of today’s tech landscape. TechCabal has long tracked Africa’s development in technology from a business and human impact standpoint, and we are buoyed by many of the same trends the businesses we cover are affected by. We’re enormously optimistic about the future of tech and media on the continent, and proud to help forge that future.