It would be a mistake to dismiss Sub-Saharan Africa as a region for investments in tech start-ups specializing in media, entertainment and the creative (MEC) industries.
The territory belongs to a continent burdened with a reputation for its numerous political, economic and military struggles.
But in the tech start-up domain, several international corporations and organizations see potential worth backing with hard cash.
The venture capital arm of TED, the popular ideas-and-inspirations conference organizer, has invested in South Africa-based Eduze, a social media venture that enables people with a frequently interrupted Internet connection to access mobile-delivered high-end videos, including movies, TV shows and educational material, for free.
Eduze has invented tiny portable solar battery-powered servers called the CLOX (Cloud in a Box), which contain the library of videos. Anyone can use their mobile device and nearby Wi-Fi signals to retrieve videos via the CLOX, once it is installed in places such as companies, institutions, organizations or public transport.
In a region rife with electricity outages that cut off Internet supply at short notice, users such as students are able to retrieve the videos, which are updated when electricity returns and full Internet connection is restored.
The videos will include films of TED Talks, the series of exclusive events where high-profile international personalities share their visions of the world with invitation-only audiences, plus content supplied by several African digital publishers.
Africa’s emerging economies
More than 40% of the 800 million-plus population in Sub-Saharan Africa are reported to be under 15 years old and the educated ones are already tech-savvy. The population is predicted to grow to about 1.5 billion by 2050.
Sub-Saharan Africa is among the regions where the sub-standard traditional communications infrastructure has been overtaken by consumers’ rapid adoption of mobile communications.
In its 2015 Mobile Economy study, international telecoms trade body GSMA reported there were 367 million mobile subscribers in the region.
It predicts more than 500 million smartphones connected by 2020 (there are currently 400 million smartphones in the saturated US market). And high-speed broadband penetration is expected to be more than 60% in four years (from about 20% today).
Among the African MEC tech start-ups to keep an eye on: Nigeria-based KairoswebTV; Tanzania-based Tango TV; Conté Creatives Agency, a South African digital media consultancy and publisher; Lagos-based Talking Bookz; South Africa’s Bozza Media (pictured above); and anti-piracy specialist Custos Media Technologies.
To learn more about the billions venture capital firms are pouring into Africa, download TechMutiny Issue No.13