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A TechCabal roundup of the
impact of the coronavirus pandemic
on tech & innovation in Africa

APRIL 12, 2020
This newsletter is a weekly special focused on the effect of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 on African tech and innovation ecosystems. Subscribe here to get it directly in your inbox every Sunday at 3 pm WAT.  


Day 59 after its first confirmed case, and at the time of sending this, Africa now has 13,831 cases and 2,407 recoveries. The pandemic and the resultant lockdowns across the continent are impacting its tech and innovation ecosystem in various ways.

It’s the bad and the lucky. While we’ve seen a disruption of ride-hailing services across the continent and a likely drop in African tech funding, e-commerce startups are seeing an increase in orders. Today, we examine another industry seeing a bump in its key metrics.

Welcome to the third edition of our coronavirus update! We hope you are safe and well.

In case you missed it, here’s Issue 1 and Issue 2.

Now dive in.


Streaming numbers are rising

Showmax, Multichoice’s online subscription video on demand (SVOD) service, is reportedly seeing a big jump in unique users and activity on its platform. The platform says it has seen a 50% increase in daily unique users during the lockdown in South Africa.  

“There was then a big jump on Friday, 27 March (the first day of the lockdown) and the upward trend has continued from there,” Multichoice said.

The number of play events on the video streaming service has also more than doubled since the lockdown, according to Multichoice. A play event according to the company is “where someone clicks play on a TV show, movie or live channel.”

Before the pandemic, Showmax said it typically sees a drop in unique users and play events on Wednesday and Thursday, the numbers then begin to rise from Friday before peaking on Sunday.

“February and early March followed this pattern with no surprises, but then there was a significant divergence from Monday, 15 March. On that day, instead of the number of active customers dropping off, it stayed almost at the Sunday peak and then started rising for six days straight,” Multichoice said.

It’s not difficult to see why. With people stuck at home and seeking a distraction, they’re turning to entertainment platforms more than ever.

Multichoice, one of Africa’s biggest entertainment companies, launched Showmax in 2015 to potentially take on competitors including Netflix, just before its arrival in 2016.

Netflix has been a source of worry for Multichoice since its entry into South Africa. The latter called on the government to regulate Netflix and also blamed it for its loss of 100,000 subscribers two years ago. Showmax’s strategy focuses on local content and partnerships with mobile telcos.

Netflix’s numbers currently pale in comparison to Multichoice, but they are continuing on a growth trajectory.

Multichoice’s subscriber numbers is 4times that of its competitors per official figures. Source: MyBroadBand

Estimated number of active subscribers (in 1,000s) to Netflix in SA has grown steadily. Source: Statista.

Africa is forecast to reach 9.72 million streaming video-on-demand subscriptions by 2025 with Netflix driving the growth.

Even though it has not released its numbers in Africa, globally Netflix’s traffic has hit all-time highs since the pandemic.

A bigger challenge that these companies are facing on a global scale is an increasing difficulty producing new content as the pandemic lingers. So your favourite streaming platform might run out of new shows the longer the pandemic and lockdown last.

Are African platforms exempt?

Productions have stopped in Nollywood, Africa’s largest film industry. Confirming this, Nigerian filmmaker Dare Olaitan tells me that Nollywood will be fine and this will most likely not affect African content on streaming platforms.

According to Olaitan,

“Most of these [streaming] platforms already have a backlog of licensed content, and when all this is over, Nollywood’s short[er] production time will ensure there is new content available soon after.“

Video isn’t the only entertainment streaming sub-sector seeing a boom. Africa’s music streaming industry is about to get a new addition with Tencent’s Joox, following a spike in its usage in South Asia during the coronavirus pandemic. Joox is already in Cape Town, South Africa, and is eyeing an African expansion starting from Nigeria where a robust music industry is domiciled.

A smartphone drought in Africa.

As the world is on lockdown, smartphone manufacturing has expectedly stalled. Projections suggest a 14.9% decline in smartphone shipment into Africa in Q1 2020. Here, Abubakar tries to make sense of this supply chain breakdown, and what it means for Africa’s largest phone suppliers.

Regardless of the pandemic, African startups are doing surprisingly well-raising money. But there is a catch. According to a study, disclosed funding raised in Africa was approximately $350 million for Q1 2020. In this article, Alexander posits that an 80% drop in the last month of the quarter is ominous, and funding might cease.

Money transfer agencies are operational despite Zimbabwe’s lockdown. And this is because of an unhealthy dependence on foreign remittances. In 2019 alone, Zim received $365 million in remittances from abroad and this is a major sustenance for its economy. Find more information here.

Google has launched a $6.5 million fund to fight coronavirus misinformation. In Africa, the company will fund Africa Check, a fact-checking organisation founded in 2012. The money will go to the latter’s Nigeria office where it has partnered with Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and Dubawa, a platform owned by Premium Times, on fact-checks.

Nigeria’s government wants to support struggling startups. Seemingly compensating for its confusing directive on the lockdown exemption for startups, it is setting up an intervention plan. A new committee for this says it has “set out to elicit, review and recommend business continuity support to the emerging tech ecosystem in Nigeria.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has pledged $1 billion to fight COVID-19.

The money which represents about a third of his wealth will go to relief programs related to the coronavirus. Start Small, a new limited liability company he created would manage the donation. It would make grants to beneficiaries and record the expenditures in a publicly accessible Google document.

As cybersecurity interest grows amid COVID-19, London’s Privitar has raised $80 million. The startup which provides data privacy technology to large enterprises is working with the UK’s National Health Service to safeguard patient data. Privitar’s Series C funding was led by new investor, Warburg Pincus with support from Accel, Partech Partners, Salesforce Ventures and others.

Here’s a centralized resource for African startups in light of COVID-19.

Created by Justin Norman, the list contains Africa-focused opportunities, initiatives, funds, and innovation challenges.

Crunchbase has provided a set of resources for businesses and entrepreneurs. It includes a library of educational resources for professionals dealing with the impact of COVID-19 and a list of investors that recently raised funds

Best wishes for a great week

Stay safe, stay home and wash your hands.

You can subscribe to our TC Daily Newsletter; the most comprehensive roundup of technology news on the continent, and have it delivered to your inbox every weekday at 7 am WAT.

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Victor Ekwealor, Managing Editor, TechCabal

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