What Drives Online Consumption in African Markets?

December 11, 2017

I was recently invited to a workshop on “Digital Usage Habits in Kenya compared to Nigeria and South Africa”, facilitated by Consumer Insights, Kenya. The host asked me to share my experience on Coke Studio Africa, an online driven TV show that is now in its fifth year.

First, a little bit about Coke Studio Africa

In the words of Monali Shah, Coke Studio Africa Project Lead,

“Coke Studio Africa is a non-competitive music collaboration show, which brings together, and celebrates the diversity of African music and talent. The artists are drawn from different genres, eras and regions and put in pairs to create a modern and authentic African sound through musical fusion. As the artistes interact and produce music documented by the show’s producers, they also get to learn about each other’s music and styles while exchanging cultures. The Big Break segment, also enables upcoming artistes the opportunity to work with some of the best local and international music and production talent.”

Click here to watch the full interview on CNN on Coke Studio Africa

A Little bit about Coke Studio Africa Online

Whilst Coke Studio started out as a show for TV broadcast, over the years, the growing online landscape in sub-Saharan Africa has demanded that we ensure the content is available online. Coke Studio’s online presence includes an Android mobile application with over 300,000 installs and over 2M music plays (streaming); a You Tube Channel with over 160,000 subscribers and over 60M views, and social media presences on the big 4 – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and SnapChat.

Today, I will focus on digital usage habits on the Coke Studio Africa You Tube channel reviewing the channel’s activity in season 4, 2016.

In 2016, the Coke Studio Africa You Tube Channel had:

For this workshop, I presented the consumption behaviour for the top 3 countries (based on video views and watch time) on the Coke Studio You Tube channel.

Kenya –This market had the highest video views on the Coke Studio YouTube channel in 2016, contributing to 31% of the total views on the channel. According to the Digitalk Study by Consumer Insights, 84% of those online are subscribed to YouTube. This is not surprising as Kenya has almost a 60% Internet penetration rate and rising smart phone usage with one of the lowest and fastest data rates and speeds in sub-Saharan Africa.

Tanzania – Surprisingly, this market placed second in top video views on the Coke Studio YouTube channel with 24% of the share. This was not the case in the prior years so came off as a real surprise, as data bundles do not come cheap, and smartphone usage whilst growing, it was not at such a fast pace like in Kenya. We investigated further on why we had higher video views and the findings helped shape our 2017 strategy. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Nigeria – This market’s share of video views, came in third after Kenya and Tanzania, even though Nigeria has more Internet users than the two countries, standing at 55M or a 45% Internet penetration rate. Video views in Nigeria in 2016 were only 12% of the total channel views. What we know, is like in Tanzania, data bundles are not as affordable like in Kenya, and smartphone usage is still on the rise. But, there’s more to it than that, which I will get to next.

So What drives online consumption habits in sub-Saharan Africa?

  1. Affordability – This is simply the price a consumer has to pay for connectivity to mobile internet or broadband/wifi. In SSA, that cannot be looked at in isolation, as we relate this cost to other consumables that one has to budget for in their daily lives such as food, transport and other entertainment. What this means is when a consumer has made the decision to spend 100 Naira on an Internet bundle, they have also reviewed their budget to cover other items like a snack on the go, a bottle of Coca-Cola, bus fare, or a ticket to the cinema or entertainment event.
  2. Accessibility – This considers the ability to access and the ease of accessing the Internet, usually on mobile in SSA, via mobile internet or WIFI. When one is connected, the experience matters greatly and this is usually based on speed of the service- 2G, 3G, 4G and how the mobile device is able to navigate through the digital landscape, which is usually dependant on the type of phone- smart or feature phones. In SSA, accessibility is still a big issue as over 650M African still do not have a good access to the Internet.
  3. Availability – In this case we look at the availability of content – the right content, and the right place, in the right language or cultural sensitivity. Content that is relevant, entertaining or informative. Content from consumers (user generated), brands, media houses, entertainment (non-pirated). The levels of availability vary greatly in Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania based on investments in local content production by brands, consumers, media houses. For example, media houses in Kenya will stream live news and related content daily, whilst this is not the same case in Nigeria and Tanzania.

Based on these 3 factors, a further review of the 3 countries’ online consumption of content on the Coke Studio channel, provided these insights:

Kenya – This is a mature market in terms of – affordability, accessibility and availability of content. It’s no wonder that consumption of video content from Coke Studio was the highest in 2016.  You Tube monthly views in 2016 in Kenya was 7.5M. Similarly, download of the Coke Studio Mobile App on Android was significant, contributing to more than about 40% of total downloads during the last season.

Tanzania –This is a growing market as Internet affordability, accessibility and availability of relevant content is still not at the maturity level. During Coke Studio Africa last season, Tigo, the mobile network operator, partnered with Google (YouTube) to provide free internet access at night and on weekends. What resulted is a surge in video viewership which grew to 5.8M monthly views. Even after the promotion ended, the behaviour continued and video viewership has grown significantly. During this same period, Coca-Cola in Tanzania set up WIFI towers at bus and ferry parks (transport hubs), to provide Free Internet Connectivity. The catch, the consumers had to watch a short 30 second Coke Studio video promoting the show, before accessing the free WIFI service. We believe these two events that were happening simultaneously led to the high online consumption of video content that we saw in the Coke Studio Africa You Tube channel in 2016. In this case, the Internet became affordable, accessible with locally available content, the key ingredients for online uptake!

Nigeria – Like Tanzania, Nigeria has affordability and accessibility issues. Locally relevant content is available particularly in the entertainment sector of music and movies. Data bundles don’t come cheap. As a response to this, young Nigerian consumers rely heavily on chat applications like BlackBerry messenger, WhatsApp. Facebook monthly active users are a paltry 18M in a country that has 55M Internet users. As a result, content that requires heavy data usage is shied away from, such as video content. It’s no wonder that in 2016, the monthly video views on You Tube was just 2.9M (behind Kenya’s 7.5m).

In September 2017, Google in Nigeria responded to the low uptake of video content in Nigeria by launching YouTube Go, an application that “has been reimagined to meet the needs of the next generation of users…”  According toe Google, A key feature of YouTube Go, is the ability to download videos, and to choose what resolution to save the video in, based on the amount of data required. I love the fact that videos can be saved and watched when offline. The key benefit of the app is in the control it gives users on managing their data bundles, whilst still affording them opportunity to search for and watch entertainment content on the YouTube platform, the largest online video community.

This is another case of enabling accessibility, affordability and availability of content.

YouTube Go, is available for download in the Google Play Store.



  1. dennoh - December 11, 2017 at 10:37 am - Reply

    Great insights here. Thanks for sharing.

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