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Amplifying African Storytelling: The Growth and Influence of Podcasting

When Rafiat Akinwande left her radio job where she had worked for over 5 years as  head of programming and an on-air personality in Niger State; North West Nigeria and relocated to Lagos,  she did not anticipate how long it would take to find another one. Passionate about broadcasting and storytelling, it didn't take long before she found another outlet for her passion and talent; Podcasting.

Armed with writing, audio production and research skills from her experience as a radio broadcaster, Rafiat launched her podcast; Queen Raffy’s Space. What started out as a somewhat temporary move to keep busy until another radio job came along, has now grown to become a source of daily motivation, inspirational stories, lifestyle and travel tips with a growing audience and over 50,000 downloads.

Podcasting in Africa has seen significant growth in recent years, driven by a combination of factors including increasing access to technology, a growing interest in digital media, and a desire for diverse and local content.  The African podcasting scene has seen the emergence of a number of independent creators producing high-quality, locally relevant content covering a wide range of topics, from news and politics to entertainment, lifestyle, and culture, and are helping to create a sense of community and connection among listeners.

The relative ease and low cost of producing and distributing podcasts compared to traditional broadcast media has enabled a more diverse range of voices to be heard, and has provided a platform for underrepresented communities to share their stories and perspectives.

“Anybody with a good idea can easily  have conversations about issues dear to them without fear of censorship. I decided to make my podcast a personal journal because I wanted to make sure that I would be able to talk about different subjects and most importantly, share my views and opinions on issues that I care about” Rafiat says. 

For African creators, podcasts have helped amplify voices that otherwise wouldn’t have been heard.  A  global audience can access podcast content  through various platforms, allowing minority voices to reach a wider audience, beyond their local community, and share their stories and experiences with people who may not have heard them otherwise.

Tanzanian publicist and podcaster Lizana Kafwa Bradshaw, says “podcasts are becoming very important especially for Africans who for years we have been silent with our true personal stories. Mass Media focuses on the global angle when narrating African stories but podcasts give a chance to African digital creators to tell their stories how they want them to be heard”. 

Lizana who podcasts about mental health, says  “I realized that people do like to engage on matters concerning their "head space"It's just that there are not so many doors especially in Africa that would genuinely be interested in how the person really feel, so  when I decided on "Self Conference"I knew that– would tickle the need to open up a bit more so I crafted the questions seasonally and made Mental Health questions the core of every episode.”

Podcasts have filled a much needed gap in the African content space; providing mental health information, financial literacy, sociopolitical commentary and more. A major contributor to the growth of podcasting in Africa has been the rise of smartphone usage across the continent. With affordable smartphones becoming more widely available, more and more people have access to the internet and are able to consume digital media, including podcasts. 

For Journalists, Media Trainer and Media Product Developer, Nelly Kalu,  what has been missing in African storytelling is on demand access. According to Nelly, “Podcasting presents the opportunity for audiences to access stories that matter to them whenever they want. Podcasting is also a good space for the storage and preservation of our stories and in essence, our culture. For storytellers, podcasting has broken barriers that used to make storytelling elitist and isolated. Anybody can be a storyteller now”

As African audiences  became more engaged, it became imperative for African creators to have platforms that not just catered to them, but prioritizes them. 

Molly Jensen is the chief executive officer of Afripods, a free pan-African podcast hosting platform building the largest library of African audio stories, based in Nairobi, Kenya. Speaking with JamLab in an interview she explained how Afripods supports  the community of African podcasters on the continent by digitally connecting creatives from different countries.

 Afripods have successfully created and grown multiple micro-communities across the continent for podcasters in different regions and are helping to  amplify their voices.  Platforms like Afripods provide African podcasters with access to African audiences and opportunities to collaborate with fellow African podcasters and even monetize their content.

Through Africa focused  hosting platforms like Afripods, podcasters are also able to connect with their audiences using local languages. This helps to maintain cultural identity and strengthen community ties. By using local languages in podcasts, creators can now reach a wider audience who may not be fluent in English or French, which are often the dominant languages used in mainstream media. This  helps share African perspectives and experiences with a broader audience, both within the continent and globally.

Podcasting has not only helped African creators to express themselves creatively, it has enabled a new wave of entrepreneurship.  African podcasters are building their own businesses and generating revenue through advertising, sponsorships, or merchandise sales. 

In 2022, global streaming giant spotify, invested $100k into the Africa Podcast Fund, an initiative that was developed to help amplify the stories of podcasters on the continent. Investments like this help to address some of the challenges facing the industry, such as a lack of funding and infrastructure. This makes it easier for African creators to start and grow their podcasts, and provide them with a more sustainable path towards success.

Traditional/Mainstream media platforms have also embraced the opportunities that come with podcasting. The flexibility that podcasting offers, allowing listeners to choose when and how to engage with the content, means mainstream radio stations and even television channels can now connect with their audience on a more personal level by offering content on demand, providing a more personal and intimate experience by building a community around their content. Traditional media stations are also generating additional revenue as they can now upsell their advertising clients for ads and sponsorships.

Overall, the growth of podcasting in Africa is a direct result of the growth of digital media on the continent and this has reinforced the need to connect people and promote diverse voices and perspectives. As access to digital media and communication technology continues to increase, the African podcasting industry  is likely to continue its rapid expansion. 

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