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Rise of the Afropolitan

When Kaya FM was handed the award for best commercial radio station at the 2013 MTN Radio Awards, it represented far more than a well-deserved honour for years of hard work of a committed team. It is also an indicator of a fundamental change in the South African radio market, by breaking the hold of long established players in the SA radio industry. The win has inserted energy and life into a market that had become a bit stayed and predictable.
For way to long black commercial broadcasters were viewed as the third cousin of the of the radio industry. Independent black radio was always seen to be on a never ending learning curve, classed as emerging and never seen to be quite of the same standard as their competitors who have been longer in the game.

The evidence is clearly born in the different income levels of the respective stations, when compared to its traditional, mainly "white" counterparts; who received the bulk of advertising revenue, despite the audience levels being on par or quite often less than their black counter parts. The argument was quite simply that these broadcasters tend to draw listeners with far higher LSM's.

I can safely say that all that has fundamentally changed. The research done by the Unilever Institute of Marketing based at UCT clearly shows that the black middle class has more spending power than whites who class themselves in the same realm.

All too often the term synonymous with the rise of the black middle class was called the black diamond. We at Kaya FM rejected that term sighting that the listeners who are not inanimate objects or so rare that they have to be, unearthed, mined and refined to be of any value. We prefer to call them Afropolitan. Urban Africans, who are very, middle class in lifestyle, but with a distinctly African Flavour. We contend that the black middle class is no longer emerging, but fully emerged. This is borne out not by wishful thinking on our part, but the clear evidence of what our listeners presented to us through our events.

Last year we took our listeners on a cruise from Durban to Inhmbane in Mozambique. While radio station cruises are far from unique, the Kaya FM cruise was different. We did not book a few decks and label it the Kaya Cruise. We booked the entire ship with over 2000 of our listeners who paid a minimum of R4000 for privilege of partying with Jonathan Butler and Louis Vega. This year we flew 120 of our listeners to Cape Town for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. It was for a four night package of R11 000 per person sharing, which included accommodation at the five star Table Bay Hotel. We have done this for four years in a row. These events do not include the Kaya Bizz SMME workshops or the Investment Club.

This point was further emphasised by an interview on Kaya FM with Adcorps Loane Sharpe; who stated that income levels have changed since 1994. His research indicates that in 1994 only 250 000 black people earned more than the median income for the average white person. Today the number stands at 1.25 million; with the transformation of income levels only set to accelerate.

The nature of the black middle class audience is however different from their white counterparts. In that they are first generation for the most part. The demands placed on them are immense, as their financial responsibilities extend far beyond their immediate family unit. They have undergone a tremendous amount of change in their lifetime. This is the space we look to inhabited as a broadcaster. We are more than a vessel for entertainment, but a friend, companion and mentor in the change that they are experiencing; this informs our content, events and interactions with our audience.

The relationships with listeners have to be real and tangible and more than Facebook likes or Re-Tweets.

This is what we at Kaya FM are particularly proud of, to be agents of transformation in the industry and in the lives of our listeners.
23 Aug 2013 14:13