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The interesting things Internet is doing to Africa | NTV

Charles Onyango Obbo

Posted: 4 months 1 hour

On Thursday PriceWaterhouseCoopers released a report, The Outlook, about the interesting things increased Internet access is doing in Mother Africa.

South Africa’s entertainment and media market, the report said, “is expected to grow by 10.2 per cent compounded annually from 2014 to 2018 to a value of R190.4 billion (about $17.3 billion). By far the largest segment will be the Internet. Combined revenues from Internet access and Internet advertising will account for an estimated R71.6 billion ($6.5 billion) in 2018, accounting for 37.6 per cent of total revenues”.

Nigeria’s entertainment and media revenues, it said, will reach an estimated $8.5 billion in 2018, more than doubling from the 2013 figure of $4.0 billion.

“This represents one of the fastest growth rates in the world,” said PWC. “The Internet will be the key driver for Nigeria…”

Then it came to East Africa, where it peeked into Kenya.

“Kenya recorded $1.7 billion in entertainment and media revenues in 2013, and this is forecast to rise to $3.1 billion in 2018. Once again, it is Internet access that is driving growth. Television and radio will account for combined $1 billion-plus of revenues at the end of the forecast period,” it said.

Digital things

I can feel the techno cynics sneering. They are right to. There remains a deep suspicion in Africa that these Internet and digital things — unless you are selling airtime and mobile phones — are just fads that don’t pay school fees or put ugali on the table.

While many East Africans know someone who has a large following on Twitter, thousands of friends on Facebook, and writes a blog read by very many, they have never heard that any of them has made enough money from it to pay rent.

True, there has been too much hype. The result is that most people have not been told that fidgeting with the Internet is like farming or going to school. Very few of the millions of farmers in Africa grow rich, and most students who go to school and sit examinations, in the end, fail.

So how does this work?

One of the best East African examples, perhaps, is Ugandan comedienne Anne Kansiime. Kansiime lives in Kampala, and flies to Nairobi to record her comedy take on Kenya’s market-leading Citizen TV every so many days.

So, though she lives in Kampala, right now she probably makes most of her money in Kenya. Kansiime was already hugely popular in Kenya before she started her Citizen TV show.

How did Kenyans discover her? On the Internet, where else? It is also where most Ugandans discovered her. She started by posting her videos on YouTube.

I am a fan of Kansiime. I was “introduced” to her by our daughter, who was in turn introduced to her by friends in college abroad — friends who are not Ugandan or East African even, who had “met” her on the Internet. The more the Internet spreads, and gets cheaper, the more people will find Anne Kansiime herself, and other Kansiimes of Africa.

Now not only does Citizen TV pay Kansiime, but folks also pay to advertise on her videos on YouTube because they are popular. That is where the lolly comes from.

It is slightly inaccurate, but that is as good a beans-and-potatoes snapshot of what the PwC report is describing, as you will get.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is editor of Mail & Guardian Africa (mgafrica.com). Twitter:@cobbo3