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Harnessing The Gains Of Digital Technology

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The revolution in digitalisation has underscored the need for African media practitioners to leverage on technology to effectively tell the African stories. MUAZU ELAZEH, who was in Dubai for the MultiChoice Africa initiated Digital Dialogue Conference, reports.

Advancement in technology and the resulting ‘villagisation’ of the world, an apt description of the world as a global village, like every other innovations in human lives, provides both opportunities and challenges, depending on the perspective from which people view the phenomenon.

There is no contesting the fact that technology has redefined the way and manner people understand the world, relate and ultimately connect to the world.

Through the digital revolution which is currently sweeping across the world, a whole gamut of information, and to some extent, misinformation, is increasingly being shared among willing and highly receptive audiences.

And Africa with its huge population; a factor that makes the continent a ready and willing market for producers of different kinds of information, there are increasing calls for Africans to reposition themselves toward being active players in the media industry so as to avoid the situation where content and information about the continent are created and transmitted to the citizens from either persons outside the continent or aliens who reside in the continent.

Understanding the digital dialogue conference

Undoubtedly, it was as part of measures to underscore the need for African media practitioners to effectively harness the opportunities provided by the digital revolution so as to effectively tell the African stories that one of the leading players in the information, education and entertainment sector, MultiChoice Africa, initiated the Digital Dialogue Conference.

The conference is an avenue for media practitioners, content providers and indeed, all those involved in the business of using the mass media to tell stories, to discuss the future of the media industry.

Indeed, the 2018 edition of Digital Dialogue Conference which took place in Dubai, the historical city of United Arab Emirates, provided media practitioners the opportunity to take a critical look at the future of the industry and its attendant benefits especially to the economics of the continent and its people.

Speaking on the idea behind the conference, the moderator for the conference, Jenkins Alumona, said it was established in 2012 to create a better understanding of Digital Migration and its impact on Africa’s digital landscape.

Interesting, since its establishment in 2012 and the subsequent hosting of the conference in Lagos and South Africa among other countries, the conference has continued to serve as an independent and growing platform that is critical in fostering a better understanding and building knowledge on the pay-TV and Digital terrestrial markets while creating necessary conversations with leaders about various industry-related issues.

Speaking at the 2018 edition of the conference, the CEO of General Entertainment at MultiChoice, Yolisa Phahle urged African media practitioners to respond to the uncertainties of what the digital future mean “for our industries and perhaps, more importantly, what it means for our people and consumers.

“As we look to the future of news and media organisations, the conversation is focused on three words: content, technology and customer which we believe will continue to be essential for any news or media organisation that wants to survive and grow in the future”.

Phahle who was the first speaker at the conference, said conscious of this and determined to effectively tell the African stories, MultiChoice is “looking forward to investing even more in telling local stories, documenting our history and providing a platform for Africans to share African stories”.

She noted that technology provides the opportunity for African media practitioners to tell stories that educate and inform African audiences, and importantly, take African stories to the world and create a global market.

“By using the Internet and leveraging technology, we have the ability to reach audiences at a global level and the success of companies like Iroko TV, artists like Davido, actresses like Lupita Nyong’o and the movie, Black Panther are confirmation that the world is ready to consume African stories, celebrate African culture and embrace African languages”.

She declared that content, technology and the consumer remained three key things media companies must pay utmost attention to, so as to survive.

“Relevant content will allow people to consume more of what they want when they want it and second rate media companies who aren’t able to embrace this technology will simply not survive.

“In this new world, we have to constantly improve the way we measure customer satisfaction levels, and customer needs, to ensure we provide existing and future customers with a seamless and exceptional service on multiple platforms,” she added.

Expectedly, Phahle’s submission underscores the need for African media practitioners and indeed, artists including but not limited to musicians, to effectively create local content and make efficient use of opportunities provided by digital revolution to sell the African stories to the world.

How Nollywood is using technology to tell the Nigerian stories

Like Phahle, famous Nigerian film maker, Femi Odugbemi, who spoke on the successes, opportunities and challenges of the Nigerian film industry-Nollywood-, minced no words in stressing the need to synergise in telling the African stories.

“If there has ever been an industry that created digital dialogue from the onset, it would be Nollywood”, Femi Odugbemi, who is the CEO of Zuri24 Media Limited, said.

Odugbemi reflected on Nollywood’s exponential growth since 1992 with the release of the classic ‘Living in Bondage’ to 2014 when it was declared a $3.3 billion sector by the Nigerian government.

In 2016, Nollywood’s combined Box Office topped a staggering N3.5 billion ($11.5 million), and in 2017, Nollywood was named one of the priority sectors identified in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan of the federal government of Nigeria with a planned $ 1 billion in export revenue by 2020.

The benefits of Africans in the entertainment industry effectively telling the African stories can better be imagined. Without mincing words, relegating such crucial role to others outside the continent will have dire consequences including rip-off as the benefits which should ordinarily accrue to the continent will be taken out through capital flight.

It is widely believed that the Nollywood aggregates an average of 50 filmmakers per film set with 2,000 film projects per year and estimated 2 million in its workforce.

To say there is the need to ensure that the industry remains afloat and grows by leaps and bounds, is an understatement.

But like Odugbemi rightly noted, a sizeable part of Nigerian film industry remains informal.

“However, there is a new thinking in Nollywood that is reshaping the industry and gradually creating formal structures that allows filmmakers to access public and private funding to address the business of filmmaking”.

The challenges notwithstanding, Nollywood remains constant along with its reputation of being an artistic platform for telling the Nigerian and indeed, African stories that resonate with audiences around the world.

There is no gain stressing the fact that African media practitioners and indeed, all those who love telling the African stories need to respond to the uncertainties of what the digital future means for the media industries and perhaps more importantly, what it means for Africans and consumers.

It is estimated that the average person spends about four hours a day watching TV in Africa.  They also spend no less than two hours online, consuming different kinds of entertainment, news and information.

This no doubt underscores the fact that the media industry in the continent is huge and can be effectively explored and harnessed by the media organisations.

But how can African media organisations survive in these obviously turbulent times where stiff competition from Netflix, Facebook and a host of others are the order of the day?

Phahle insisted that to survive and grow, media companies have to find new ways of engaging more effectively with the audience when there are more choices than ever, more free content than ever and customers are becoming more and more accustomed to receiving personalized content that talks to their specific requirements often seemingly for free.

“Nowadays, no one can say with absolutely certainty what the future holds for any business in the news or media industry…but the producers of the most relevant and resonant content will survive” she enthused.

Applauding MultiChoice

Over the years, MultiChoice, as a video entertainment company, has earned fame for itself through delivering value to its customers by making great entertainment more accessible.

Interestingly, it finds and develops the right mix of content and delivers it to millions of people across Africa – anytime, anywhere.

And like the managing director of MultiChoice Nigeria, John Ugbe, aptly puts it, the company’s investment in leading-edge content and technology systems deliver the shows that people love into their hands and their living rooms.

“We’re reshaping our business to improve our customers’ experience, whenever and wherever they engage with us”.

Takeaway from the conference

Interestingly, the conference attendees who comprised senior editors and seasoned media practitioners from Ghana, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria among other African countries, posited that digital, multi-platform technology, relevant and well-differentiated content and a people strategy for talent and customers remain the key to future survival.



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