Mobile Africa: Believe The Hype

The hype around the mobile phone in Sub Saharan Africa is justified because it is a powerful tool that has the capability of connecting an entire continent, in the palm of our hands.

In keeping with our tradition of providing premium entertainment and lifestyle content, Pulse is excited to announce the launch of our Pulse VIP blogger series.

Our featured VIP blogger is Bastian Gotter and he'll be sharing on the need to take the mobile revolution in Sub Saharan Africa more seriously, as therein lies the key to connecting with the rest of the continent on a bigger level:

There’s a lot of hype around the power of the mobile phone in Sub Saharan Africa, and rightfully so - it’s a powerful tool that has the capability of connecting an entire continent, in the palm of our hands.

Farming, banking, business, e-commerce, entertainment, news & information, gaming….. the mobile phone will revolutionize everything. Literally, everything.

In some ways, the revolution has a blueprint of sorts to work from - the mobile phone revolution in the West - but for SSA, I believe there will also be some significant nuances, in that the mobile here will be even more powerful, because the desktop/laptop and landline revolutions never really happened here. The mobile phone leapfrogged all other hardware to become king.

For iROKOtv.com, the online movie distribution company I co-founded in 2010 with Jason Njoku, there is absolutely no reality, no future, that does not have mobile strategy at the core. None whatsoever.

The mobile user in SSA is most definitely our target audience from 2014 and beyond. Why? Because it is the most popular, most effective platform for people to access entertainment - be it Nollywood, Hollywood, music or whatever.

In our early years, we grew our company on the back of Diaspora movie fans on their laptops/tablets in the West - USA, UK, Canada, Germany, Italy etc. We built a loyal online audience who had easy, cheap access to broadband connections; this is not the case in SSA. Here, on the continent, we now have to revise our business strategy and technical expertise and abilities to accommodate a predominantly broadband-light, mobile audience. Not an easy feat, and it will require significant investment but we cannot ignore the data.

The Diaspora audience is approximately 30 million - a worthy number indeed. But the SSA potential audience will reach close to 1 billion. That, my friends, is scale. How we go about scaling our company to reach this gargantuan audience is what keeps myself and Jason awake at night and will do for the coming years. It’s what keeps ANY entrepreneur looking to build a business in Africa awake at night.

Don’t believe the mobile hype? You should. By 2020 we will have 600mn smart phones in SSA - rates of growth are totally mind blowing and the race to build more mobile towers and infrastructure is a brutal one between the big telco giants - one that I monitor and admire from the sidelines and keep a close eye on, but am happy to be removed from - for now. These guys work at government level to build up comms infrastructures in often hostile environments. As with many great business ventures, those who have the guts to explore and trailblaze new territories and put their money where their mouths are, will ultimately succeed.

I use this mantra when making my own investments in the African tech scene. As mentioned before, in 2010, I invested in and co-founded in a Nollywood video streaming site which very quickly grew into iROKOtv.com. Jason Njoku and I were the first to actually attempt to bring some formality to Nollywood online distribution and whilst we encountered innumerous challenges along the way (in fact we still do today), ultimately, we were the first to market and were able to scale our business relatively quickly, within the parameters we work in. And whilst there is still a long way to go to build it into the business we want it to be, we have so far been rewarded for our trailblazing.

My initial investment into iROKOtv.com was a shrewd one - but I didn’t know that at the time. Four years ago, it was a gamble on a market I knew relatively little about to help a friend out. Having now lived and worked in SSA for the last two years, and having seen the power of the mobile and tech revolutions that are unfolding, I have been able to study the market in closer details and become part of the ecosystem by investing in other tech innovators, through Spark - a group of young, smart, business savvy people who understand the power of the mobile and want to, essentially, dictate the tech revolution for SSA.

Every discussion, every thought, every strategy amendment - everything - has smartphone / mobile scalability at its core. Why? Because these guys know that they cannot disrupt their market without it. And this is why you should believe the hype.

Bastian Gotter is the co-founder of iRoko Partners  and the Managing Partner of  Spark.ng.

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