Digital Entertainment Services in Africa

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The African digital entertainment ecosystem is evolving to great heights. The continent is experiencing a rapid convergence of traditional media entertainment with that of digital. This is primarily due to the increasing reliance on mobile phones as multipurpose devices and the rise in relatively affordable internet enabled handsets. According to the GSMA 2015 Mobile Economy Report, there will be 540 million smartphones by 2020 in Sub-Saharan Africa alone; a three times growth from 2015.

The growing demand for digital entertainment services will bring with it a growth in data consumption. Mobile data traffic is estimated to increase over 10 times within the next five years in SSA. The increasing expectation from mobile consumers for quality anytime, anywhere access to mobile services means that the region has to rapidly migrate to higher mobile broadband speeds; Especially considering that data will soon be the leading revenue generator for mobile operators. According to the GSMA, data revenues currently account for more than 10% of recurring revenues in many countries in the region. Mobile broadband connections in Sub-Saharan Africa are set to increase from 24% in 2015 to 57% by 2020. Sub-Saharan Africa is continually aiming to develop high performance networks with at least 41 countries already using commercial 3G networks, and 23 countries having access to 4G networks.  The upgrading of networks will prove pivotal in improved customer experience when consuming digital content.


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Digital Music

Music is one of the leading features used by mobile users in Africa. A study conducted by GeoPoll and World Wide Worx, focusing on African Mobile Phone Africa Mobile Phone Usage, revealed that on average 41% of respondents listen to FM radio on their mobile phone. This is the third highest mobile service used after Facebook and SMS. Another study conducted by Ericsson, focusing on the Digital Divide, revealed that 35% of basic/feature phone owners (and 55% of smartphone owners) consume music on their mobile devices on a daily basis. This is the second highest mobile feature consumed after SMS. It is clear that music is one of the leading mobile digital entertainment segments that mobile content providers should monetize.

The growth in music consumption over mobile phones brings with it the convergence of two gigantic industries; handset and music. Digital technology via mobile phones is opening great opportunities for the recording industry to reach a greater number of consumers they would otherwise not have access to via traditional music distribution. The mobile music revolution brings with it a change in traditional music business models and the emergence of new partnerships.  Below are examples of a few such partnerships:

  • MTN teamed up with simfy Africa (a music streaming service that works together with music labels and publishers to provide users with legal music usage) to bring streaming to its subscribers. The service costs around $4 per month in South Africa for access to more than 23 million tracks as well as custom and curated playlists. This cost offers a very cheap alternative to procuring music in comparison to buying CDs. Such offers becoming highly attractive to Africa’s largely price-sensitive customers.
  • Vodacom has partnered with Web-based music streaming service Deezer. The service is included as a value-added service in certain of its packages and is also bundled with data. Using the app costs around $5 per month for the South Africa market. The app is offered free for the first two months.
  • Millicom, in partnership with Deezer recently launched Tigo Music in Tanzania. Tigo customers in Tanzania will be able to access 36 million tracks with a data package.
  • Samsung, in partnership with Universal Music, launched The Kleek app, a pan-African mobile music streaming service tailor made for African consumers using Samsung smartphones.
  • Uber Lagos partnered with Spinlet, an online music streaming platform to give Uber riders one month free premium access to Spinlet’s music library.
  • Kenya’s largest mobile app for legal music downloads, Mdundo , and Microsoft partnered in 2013 to give consumers who bought the $200 Huawei 4Afrika phone a premium Mdundo account for six weeks. Consumers could download the app and instantly gain access to a library of more than two thousand songs directly from their mobile phone.

Digital Gaming

Gaming has seen growth in the African mobile entertainment world. According to an entertainment survey done by PWC; the South African gaming market, for example, is worth around $217 million and the Nigerian gaming market is worth about $71 million. In a study done by GeoPoll and World Wide Worx, it was revealed that 32% of respondents stated playing games was one of the most common activities they partook in on their mobile phones. This activity fell within the top 10 activities respondents did on their handsets.

Even though gaming as an entertainment source is a relatively popular choice; cost is still a very big barrier to enjoying the gaming experience in developing countries. Africa has seen a decline in handset costs, but data is still viewed as highly priced. Many consumers would rather use their data spend on activities such as social networking over gaming. And the gaming world has noticed this. Some gaming providers have used social media sites as promotional landscapes and forums to create interactive gaming environments.

Obstacles aside, gaming will boom in Africa as working business models emerge to benefit both consumers and developers. The promotion of gaming options that are geared towards the African consumer will assist in growing this sector. With regional-focused game developers such as Afroes, Luma Arcade and Kola Studios, the development of local content is well on its way.

When all is said and done, the number one thing that all content providers need to understand when it comes to digital entertainment is the following: create personalized content that speaks to each user’s unique preferences and pocket.  Content must be tailor-made with price-sensitive pre-paid users in mind.  The region’s mobile gaming audience largely has limited disposal income and are highly likely to spend it on everything else and consider gaming last.

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