2016 should have been the year that African Video on Demand really went mainstream. Instead we're still waiting for a mobile operator to launch four years on and the user numbers are only just beginning to start looking promising.
But there's been plenty happening right across the field of African digital content and I hope the best 25 Interviews on Smart Monkey TV in 2016 reflect some of the excitement of what's been happening.
In this issue, I've chosen what I think are the best 20 interviews and have given you the viewers the verdict on the other 5, which received the most views over the last 12 months. The other top 5 lists are as follows: Film and TV; Music; Digital Advertising and Social Media; and Media.
5 Most Viewed in 2016
1. Jeremy Nathan on a film about Nelson Mandela as the "Black Pimpernel" - Mandela's Gun
This long-awaited docu-drama focuses on the period in Nelson Mandela’s life when took up arms against the Apartheid state in South Africa. It raises and solves a number of historic mysteries including who informed the South African Government of his whereabouts, leading to his capture. It opened the Johannesburg Film Festival in November 2016 but will get a much wider release in 2017.
2. Shirley Frimpong Manso on her new feature film Rebecca and her latest TV series Shampaign
Husband-and-wife team Kenn Attoh and Shirley Frimpong Manso seem to effortlessly put together well-crafted, popular TV drama. This year it was Shampaign, a TV series about the first female candidate for President in Ghana. For those of you who remember a Black president in the American TV series 24 before it happened, may well be hoping that the fiction is prophetic for the future.
3. Elias Schulze, Kana TV on launching an Ethiopian free-to-air satellite entertainment channel
Suddenly Ethiopia’s TV landscape has got interesting with the arrival of new free-to-air satellite broadcasters, of which Kana TV is probably the most interesting. Backed by the Gulf-based Moby TV (which also has a TV station in Afghanistan), it is run by a young American called Elias Schulze who used to work for Jumia. And what has been the key to its success? It has dubbed a whole lot of TV programming into Amharic so that Ethiopian viewers can watch directly in a language they understand. Better still, Kana TV did detailed research on the kind of programming that was popular and this has paid off.
4. Amaru da Costa, Soulistic Music on the digital success of Black Coffee's album Pieces of Me
Amaru da Costa’s trajectory is one of those stories that illustrates how the Internet and social media have opened up opportunities in Africa. As a fan of Black Coffee, da Costa wrote saying he wanted to manage. It wasn’t an immediate yes but after showing what he could, he was taken on. He talks about how digital distribution is changing how music breaks in South Africa.
5. Eric Kabera on his new documentary Intore about Rwanda 20 years after the Genocide
Speaking to Eric Kabera about the people in his documentary was one of those conversations that really stuck in my mind. The film is an attempt to get to grips with the horrors of the genocide. Several film dramas have been made about the genocide but Intore is an attempt by a Rwandan to reflect on what happened to his country.
Top 5 Film and TV Interviews
1. 30 Days in Atlanta producer and comedian AY on his next film A Trip To Jamaica
Nollywood comedy produced one of Nigeria’s biggest box office successes with 30 Days in Atlanta. In this video clip interview Ayo Makun (AKA AY) talks about what made 30 Days in Atlanta funny and how he has tried to repeat that success with A Trip To Jamaica.
2. How to steal 2 Million's Charlie Vundla on Cuckold, a film about a menage a trois
Having made a successful crime caper movie, Charlie Vundla decided to embark on a much more personal project with Cuckold. This ménage a trois film that focuses on the relationship between the two men who both love one man’s wife is something very different from what you might expect from African film.
3. Tebogo Malope on his film For Love and Broken Bones, loneliness and the dream that started it all
South African film director dreamt of the mood that became the story in Love and Broken Bones. Here he talks about how that dream turned into a film and what he liked about the characters in the story.
4. Bakahika Bruno, Kapital Movies on a South Sudanese film about a rich man's land grab
I met film-maker Bakahika Bruno in South Sudan’s capital Juba back in February 2016. It was before the latest round of conflict had kicked off again in South Sudan. At the time it seemed a hopeful sign but now as things seem more hopeless for the country, it’s probably just another record of missed potential, an elegy for what might have been.
5. Mary Njoku, Rok Studios on its five new planned TV series telling traditional African stories
Actress Mary Njoku who heads up iROKO’s production arm ROK Studios outlines an ambitious programme. She wants to put together historic TV dramas in five different Nigerian languages and she’s also opened a channel on Sky TV for Nollywood fans who don’t want to have to go online to get their fix.
Top 5 Music Interviews
1. Djo Moupondo, La Clique Music on launching diaspora Congolese artist Mohombi in Africa
Congolese Djo Moupondo is one of the creative managers in African music you probably have never heard of. He manages diaspora Congolese artist Mohombi who he is seeking to help break into Africa. He’s also involved in an online music platform for those who can’t find francophone African music.
2. Gallo's Tsholo Moraba on its label acquisitions and how tech is increasing royalties collection
After its relationship with Warner broke up, Gallo Music has picked itself up and begun to both acquire new properties and exploit its fabulous historic catalogue. Moraba also talks about his involvement in one of the collecting societies and how by collecting revenues more efficiently they’ve been able to increase the amount of money coming into the industry and going to artists.
3. Catherine Luckhoff, NicheStreem on bringing Afrikaans music and Nigerian gospel online
Formerly with Bozza, NicheStreem’s Founder and CEO Catherine Luckhoff has spotted a niche in music platforms in every sense of the word. She has taken Afrikaans music – which would get lost on any other generic music platform – and created a special platform for it. She has plans to do the same with Nigerian gospel music.
4. Adam Tiran, Africori on its A'friquency music event series and digital playlists
Whenever I talk to Yoel Kenan, Africori about the emerging African music industry. I always have an interesting conversation. In this video clip, his Head of Operations Adam Tiran talks about the music event series they have been running and their digital music deal with Nigerian label Chocolate City.
5. Marek Fuchs on working with Sauti Sol and launching an entertainment branding agency
Marek Fuchs manages one of Africa’s big “pop” acts, Sauti Sol. In this video clip, he explains how he’s set up a record label with them. His next ambition? He wants to set up and entertainment branding agency that will look after African celebrities including sports people.
Top 5 Social Media and Digital Advertising Interviews
1. Mortimer Harvey's Luisa Mazinter on how digital is changing the African advertising agency
As Group Chief Innovation Office for African ad agency Mortimer Harvey, Luisa Mazinter has a good perch from which to see clearly the changes that are happening as a result of the digital transition in advertising. She talks about how it changes what the advertising agency does and how Mortimer Harvey has responded to these challenges.
2. Papa Cire Kane, Byfilling on start-up digital agency Byfilling and the online landscape in Senegal
Every African of any size now has digital agencies taking care of both digital advertising and social media for brands. Byfilling is one of this new generation of agencies and Papa Cire Kane talks about who he works for and about smartphones and social media in the Senegalese market.
3. Kofi Dadzie, Rancard Solutions on how its Social Graph Rendezvous provides engagement marketing
I’ve known Kofi Dadzie for well over a decade and he’s always doing something interesting. His Social Graph Rendevous is a piece of original African IP which may yet find itself being used around the world.
4. Serigne Barro, People Input on its social Instant Messaging platform Ginger and its VIP Club
People Input is the grandfather of all digital agencies in francophone Africa and has a part of the company that is responsible for producing new and interesting online services. One of its latest is a social Instant Messaging platform called Ginger.
5. South Africa: Arcade's Will Nicholson on using branded content to reach those who don't watch TV ads
Branded content is entertaining content that can be launched online and will attract a substantial audience for the brand behind it. Arcade’s Will Nicholson describes two campaigns it has been involved in and how they became a success.
Top 5 Africa Media Interviews
The big challenge for African print media is how to survive the transition to digital, both in terms of bringing readers with you and in how to re-invent the business model. Therefore I make no apologies for giving three of my picks over to this topic.
1. Kenneth Ashigbey on how Graphic's newspapers will become a multi-media platform
Formerly with Multi TV, Ghanaian Kenneth Ashigbey has a very clear idea of how he will take Government-owned Graphic Newspapers into a digital future. He talks about monthly uniques, page views and how online ad revenues will replace current print ones.
2. Africa’s e- publishers get ready for to open up book distribution in Africa
African e-publishing is really in its infancy but there’s something very exciting about the potential of e-publishing, both for readers and authors. So below are two interviews that reflect this potential:
2.1 Kudakwashe Kamupira and Barbara Njau, Bahati Books on e-publishing in Africa
2.2 Gersy Ifeanyi on how Digitalback Books wants to curate deliciously diverse African e-books
3. Future of the Newsroom: Penplusbytes' Kwami Ahiabenu on the impact of digital on the news
Penplusbytes’ Kwami Ahiabenu talks about how newsrooms need to change and why mobile companies are critical to the future of the news.
4. Timothy Spira on eNCA's digital news transition and the growth in online audiences
eNCA’s Online General Manager Tim Spira has overseen the digital transition within this broadcast news operation and has a number of good insights into what’s working now and what might work in the future.
5. Jessica Hope on why African start-ups need media coverage and how to get it
Jessica Hope set up her own PR agency after leaving iROKO TV where she had established herself as a person who understood how to get media coverage. In this video she boils down some of the basics of why you might want media coverage as a start-up and how you go about it.
If you’d like to see someone interviewed on Smart Monkey TV in 2016, just send me their name on firstname.lastname@example.org .
We'll be back on 15 January with the next issue of Digital Content Africa.
Seasons Greetings and all the best for 2017
Smart Monkey TV
PS I’m personally excited by the little known breed of African designers who work quietly away below the radar. Take a look at Naeem Biviji, Studio Propolis talking about designing contemporary chairs for a cathederal in Kenya: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2fTqkUv8_A