26 May 2015

African content - the VAS opportunity for startups

By Gabriella Mulligan, co-founder Disrupt Africa

The opportunity presented by the value added services (VAS) market for startups across Africa is phenomenal, as demand for quality African content grows in tandem with mobile and internet uptake.

To date only 19 per cent of Africa’s 1 billion-strong population is online according to the International Data Corporation (IDC). The flipside of this statistic is the sheer size of the untapped market - a market of consumers who are (not-so-)slowly, but surely, coming online and will demand quality content when they arrive.

Africa also has the fastest growing middle class in the world, with McKinsey estimating Africa’s consumer spending will hit US$1.4 trillion within the next five years.

What these figures say to me is that in Africa we’re at the dawn of an era with the potential to be characterised by a booming VAS market - and I think that market will be led by the continent’s outstanding startups, and the key will be localised African content.

Of course, as a news website we at Disrupt Africa believe in the future of online written content in Africa, and day-to-day we see the demand for a source of quality, engaging written content pertaining to Africa’s success stories.

Africa wants to hear about new ideas and new opportunities; the continent wants to engage with the business sector, read about successes, and glean advice. The call for online written content catering to an African audience is most definitely there.

But by all means leave the written market for us! Opportunity presents itself for African content across media channels.

The rise of video-on-demand in Africa - fuelled by startups and small businesses - is testament to the growing demand for video services.  Traditional television providers are already playing catch-up, trying to reinvent themselves to remain competitive within the new market.  

However, it’s the smaller home-grown companies, close to the ground and quick to respond, which can grab the opportunity of video-on-demand with both hands.  Africa’s own innovators are offering African video content services which speak directly to the market’s desires; and via the devices the market likes (ahem, mobile).  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go and check out Wabona.

Africa will forever be the home of music, a fact which screams only one question: where are all the innovative music services? Why don’t the continent’s music lovers have access to all the content they want, whenever they want it, in the format they want it, at a cost they like?

There are people out there trying, yes. But the market is still wide-open, and the opportunity for startups to jump in and create a VAS offering that will be indispensable for African consumers is very real. Just ask Mdundo.

My last mention goes to the social media opportunity.  Startups with a bit of social media savvy - the world is yours for the taking.  Africa has 1 billion people, 720 million of them have mobile devices. Both of those numbers are growing.  People like to chat, to engage, to share stuff.  That’s a potential critical mass for an awesome new African social media platform ripe for the taking.  

So startups, get to work! And come and talk to Disrupt Africa as soon as you get your idea off the ground.

Disrupt Africa are an official media partner for VAS Africa 2015. VAS Africa will be taking place this 30 June - 1 July in Johannesburg, South Africa. For more information or to register, visit: http://vasafrica.comworldseries.com/ 

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