Will Africa join the music streaming revolution? 

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On-demand services have never been so popular. The modern-day population is desperate for quick access to a range of different content, hence why we have seen streaming services like Amazon Prime and Netflix thriving on a global scale. Music streaming services are hugely popular, too, although they aren’t as prominent in Africa. But could that change? 

The top African jams in recent times generally get played on a variety of services, but streaming platforms open up an entirely different avenue for fans and the music artists in question. For music lovers, the sheer amount of content to access is mightily impressive. For the musicians themselves, the likes of Spotify and Apple Music provide a platform for them to share their music with a mass audience and receive royalties in the process. It’s a simple but highly rewarding process for both the artist and the listener. 

These types of services are yet to really make a big impression on the African market, though, especially when assessing the other entertainment options people regularly turn to on the continent. For example, gamers can access a variety of material online using a smartphone device, such as the Deal or No Deal Live casino game, alongside titles available in the App Store or Google Play, like Among Us or Pokemon Go. When assessing the music genre, there isn’t the same type of options. For instance, the popular music streaming service Mdundo launched in 2013, but it is only available in five African countries. 

The music distribution platform from Kenya is still regarded as a pioneer of sorts, though, but its reach is minuscule compared to other streaming platforms around the world. With over seven million active users, Mdundo’s co-founder Martin Nielsen is convinced that his plan worked and the future is bright, recently telling DW: “The market for music streaming and downloads in Africa is growing rapidly. People are going online, and there is a great demand for content, and that includes music in particular.”

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Despite Nielsen’s positive predictions for the future, the platform isn’t widely accessible throughout the continent. Even a well-established platform and industry giant Spotify is only available in five African countries at the time of writing. Music is clearly an integral part of African culture, especially among young people, but there are barriers to music streaming’s success. Accessibility to technology is one of them. 

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The fact remains that not every part of Africa has access to the internet. In fact, only 29% of people on the continent use the internet. There is a range of services despite this, such as Boomplay, which has around 50 million users, but also smaller providers, including Mkito in Tanzania, Songa from Kenya and uduX in Nigeria. Limitations surrounding the internet will ultimately limit their success, though. 

Some of these platforms have even been accused of inflating their figures, with Nigerian technology analyst Victor Ekwelaor stating that he finds it hard to trust the marketing messages being sent out by the various platforms. He said: “I don’t think they are booming. There is just a wave of marketing measures and attempts to get into the market.”

Alongside issues with getting online, the listening public are having to overcome hugely expensive data connections. African providers charge an average of $3.30 (€2.77) per gigabyte, according to a study by British provider CableUK. For a country fighting against poverty, that can only be a humongous issue moving forward. There is a clear trend of these types of services thriving in countries that have better economic conditions and low data prices, for example. Sadly, those types of conditions don’t apply to Africa yet. 

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