As we mentioned before, All Amber have a knack for putting together brilliant conferences. Every one of their current conferences has been featured by us before and when Managing Director, Matthew Dawes, got in touch to tell us about Mobile Entertainment Africa, the continent’s inaugural conference on the convergence of African entertainment and mobile phones we were glad to be involved.

Mobile Entertainment Africa Logo.

Day 1

All Amber conferences are known and touted for their interactive round-table format and this was one of the first things I got to experience. I popped into the venue at the incredible 5 star One and Only Resort at the heart of the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront the night before to get a feel of the venue.

OneandOnlyResortCapeTown

The set-up of the conference was intimate. A dozen or so round tables across the ballroom with the dais  and adjacent high table for the panel at the end.

Mobile Entertainment Africa Ballroom

The first day’s proceedings were began by Matthew Dawes who introduced our chairman for the first session, Quirk CEO Justin Spratt. Russell Southwood, Editor of Balancing Act Africa began by painting a picture of the challenges of the value chain for content creators within mobile entertainment. Choosing to look at a macro level, his insight led us to see the local consumption habits of several major African countries. Though the point he stressed was we’re at a time where mobile network operators must make a choice, either play in the content space and commit to it or open it up for independent players and partners to join (and certainly reconsider the 80/20 revenue shares to more competitive 60/40 arrangements)

Samsung’s Head of Content and Apps, Brett Loubser was up next giving the big player perspective. Given their footprint across the continent and recent partnerships with Android not to mention their own platform Bada. Tackling the apps vs. WAP debate, Brett posed a question back since it does depend on how content is delivered and consumed by the audience. Speaking about the apps value chain, one of the memorable highlights of Brett’s keynote was his uncanny verbatim quote of Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer in Ballmer’s famous “Developers” address (which became an internet meme with plenty of remixes to be found)

I was up next and a full transcript of my talk will be available in the course of the next week here on Afrinnovator and on Mark: My Words.

The panel discussion was certainly a lively one. From questions by Candice Goodman of Mobitainment to what the impact of the mobile lotteries in Kenya was (one of them being the loss of trust in PRSPs and companies providing mobile services)

Microbilling was another one of the talking points in the discussion. M-Pesa and its ability to work across the continent, with a specific focus on the current state in South Africa (having entered the market first with NedBank then Vodacom) Russell mentioned that it’s only until critical mass that a service like M-Pesa can be of true value. Currently in the 150,000 users mark, in Kenya it was only when it crossed the 500,000 threshold that it began to truly bring value to the market and the same should be expected in South Africa.

An alternative perspective published this past week on Memeburn begs to differ. The jury’s still out on this one.

Next up after the break was Mark Rayner, CEO of DStv Mobile. He pointed out the unique challenge that DStv Mobile is setting out to tackle across the continent, delivering a compelling experience through mobile television. Mark commented on how Africans typically spend 5 hours viewing per person per day watching television but with mobile TV being between 10 minutes and 20 minutes a day. When it came down to the nuts and bolts, Mark was open about the business model for mobile TV being a work in progress with no clarity as yet but testing the African market nonetheless.

Having used the service in Kenya it will be interesting to see if they can implement some forms of microbilling to meet the market’s penchant for payment options.

One of the highlights of the conference was Nigeria’s Iroko Partners. Jason Njoku, CEO, has created what is Nigeria’s first legal online distributor of Nigerian and West African film with over 800 films in less than a year. Using Youtube and particularly Youtube’s Partnership Program, their channels have garnered over 2.2 million unique viewers and 16 million views from 231 countries and all without any marketing. 20% of traffic is from mobiles and 60% of search enquiries come from mobiles in Nigeria. Having made over $1,000,000 in revenues from 5 countries through the Youtube Partnership Program they buy the digital rights outright or work on a revenue share with the content creators and he currently has over 40 people working on all the films, channels and content. Their biggest success to date has been Blackberry Babes, seen below.

 

According to Jason in Nigeria, pirates are some of the only innovators and to beat them and offer the industry a new way to monetise he had to do a lot of evangelism work within the industry as well as actually digitising and categorising the films. As broadband penetration grows in Africa through 3G and LTE he expects to see revenues generated from the regional market. In Sub Saharan Africa, the current growth of internet users is 67% compared to 24% globally.

Ayite Gaba, Business Development at Google opened with the case for Youtube on Mobiles as smartphone penetration on the continent continues to grow. Smartphones and tablets are outselling computers on the continent with approximately 10 million smartphones/tablets estimated to be sold on the continent in 2011. This due to competitive pricing such as the $99 Lakshmi Access Tablet or the $80 Huawei IDEOS. The Youtube Partnership Program, of which Iroko Partners is the big African case study at the moment cemented the potential for monetizing African content through the web, especially with Youtube featuring in the top 10 lists of most African countries.

Emma Kaye, CEO of Bozza wrapped up the first day’s proceedings with insight into how through Bozza.mobi they trained residents of Khayelitsha, an informal township in Cape Town, South Africa how to make short films on the Nokia N8 and the residents have since began to produce and consume their own local content. The evening rounded off with a screening of SMS Sugar Man by Aryan Kaganof. Shot entirely on a Sony Ericsson W900i he pioneered the platform, remaining true to his art and instincts to create a compelling film that surprised many. The film is available to view online.

Day 2

The proceedings began with an introduction by Nevo Hadas who ushered Toby Shapshak, Editor of Stuff Magazine South Africa who broke down the current era of apps and digital consumerism, not without a dose of trademark humour. Musa Kalenga, Managing Director of IHOP World followed with a rousing talk on marketing to the youth in Africa with global case studies of what’s going right and where brands have got it horribly wrong. His summary for brands: Be wise, be honest, be human and be shareable. Wise words considering the opportunity presented to connect with more Africans through mobile phones than any other time in history.

Prezence, famed in South Africa for their bold swag (I picked up an AngryNirds tee) were well represented and when Tim Bishop, Founder, came up to speak. Challenging assumptions of where the consumer stands in the equation as far as devices and user experience, Tim pointed out  that when it comes to delivering a consistent mobile experience for +6,000 handsets and devices one designs with the lowest common denominator in mind. According to Tim, Africa is a mobi-first continent not an app-first continent; speaking also to the numerous plans of mobile network operators to provide apps and app stores. Interestingly, most internet access happens in the week during work hours, with 65% of Google searches taking place on mobile during the weekend with only 25% taking place on mobile during workdays.

Isis Nyong’o VP and MD of InMobi Africa brought some great context from the world’s largest independent mobile advertising network. With approximately 500 million mobile phones on the continent, 69 mllion are mobile data subscribers and of that group, 22M are considered the addressable market for mobile entertainment. Such clarity paints a whole new picture for delivering entertainment content over the mobile web.

Later, Wesley Lynch, Founder and CEO of Realm Digital shared the case for the evolution of the eBook and how it’s disrupting the publishing landscape. Some very interesting insight there, especially with the likes of the Amazon Kindle and the iPad. With the Kindle in particular statistics and studies have shown that they have a positive effect on reading and purchasing of hard and soft cover books. One remark from the next session was Richard Morgan-Grenville, CEO of Strika Entertainment, pursuing digital comics and mixing traditional publishing was that with 522,000 Supa Strikas comics published every month and a viewership of over 5.3million when it came to online vs. mobile, when the .mobi site launched it got more than 10 times the amount of traffic as the website.

More people have access to mobile phones than to drinking water. This quote featured several times and when Jonathan Hoehler, CTO at Starfish Mobile came up to break down SMS gaming it came up again. SMS brings in 13 times more revenue than apps globally and is expected to contribute a massive 55.7% (alongside MMS) to global data revenues in 2011. Globally, MMS outperforms mobile apps and mobile music put together.

In Africa, the most popular entry level handset remains the Nokia 1110 while the most popular WAP handset being the Nokia 5130 XpressMusic. Jonathan summarised with a few key points including that SMS remains the most available form of data billing in Africa and the best data medium for mass market adoption. So when thinking of the mobile data’s killer app in Africa, think SMS.

Finally, the AppCircus competition took place with Moraba an app by Afroes Games, led by Anne Shongwe taking the $1,500 InMobi Advertising Spend prize as well as a nomination to the 2012 Mobile Premier Awards in Barcelona. There will be another AppCircus going on this weekend in Nairobi. Look out for Afrinnovator’s live coverage.

Overall, the conference was well worth it. The audience stayed through the entire conference and All Amber’s focus on interactivity paid off with plenty of discussion and opportunities to deliberate the future of content on the continent.

Afrinnovator will certainly be back next year and sooner still for their next conference Mobile Web Africa 2011 where acclaimed thought leader and author on mobile trends Tomi Ahonen will be in Johannesburg this November.

What are your thoughts on the points and notes from the speakers? Let us know in the comments below.

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