Who are Africa’s future influencers?
If you ask Wowzi, a Kenyan-founded online marketplace for influencer marketing, it’s everyone.
Founded in 2018, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wowzi is a seamless influencer marketing platform that aims to “democratise influence” for creators and brands alike.
On Wednesday, Wowzi announced that it successfully closed a $2 million seed round led by 4DX Ventures, which will allow the company to further scale across the African continent. This comes after an unannounced $1.2 million pre-seed round, totaling $3.2 million.
While Wowzi currently operates in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, the platform has plans to expand to Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa in early 2022.
According to Statista, the global influencer marketing market size has more than doubled since 2019 to an incredible $13.9 billion. And, in 2019 alone, more than 240 influencer marketing-focused platforms and agencies were created.
But, across Africa, few platforms exist that serve the growing desire for tailored marketing campaigns. While funds secured by Africa’s startups are predicted to reach $5 billion by the close of the year, little has been dedicated to tech companies that focus on Africa’s creative industries.
However, Africa’s creatives continue to rise.
Kenyan TikTok celebrity and radio personality Azziad Nasenya soared in popularity on TikTok, amassing 1.6 million followers, in a little under two years. Osinachi, a Nigerian crypto artist, sold the first NFT series by an African artist with Christie’s in October.
As Africa’s digital influence accelerates, so too will the need for more avenues to manage them.
When unverified, online influence can have detrimental effects.
Not so Fyre
Remember the 2017 Fyre Festival, which promised an unmatched experience for the thousands that paid up to $100,000 to attend? Filled with clever, Instagram-driven marketing tactics, and backed by influencers like Kylie Jenner, the festival ended in a huge flop, stranding attendees in the Bahamas.
The Fyre Festival’s aftermath changed the face of Instagram and influencer marketing as the world knew it. Influencers were prosecuted for false advertising, and the US’s Federal Trade Commission, which enforces consumer protection, sent warning letters to big-name social media stars. In response, Instagram rolled out its “Paid Partnership” feature, forcing influencers to reveal the nature of sponsored posts.
Above all else, the Fyre Festival ushered in a new era for digital marketing. Social media users became more skeptical of big-name influencers, and brands also learned that smaller creators with more dedicated fan bases could be a better source for more authentic reach.
This gave birth to a new class of macro (100,000 to one million followers), micro (1,000 to 100,000 followers), and nano (less than 1,000 followers) influencers that took the world by storm.
A new class of influencers
Wowzi hopes to use its platform to leverage the power of influencers at all levels. But believes it has the potential to foster, manage, and verify smaller, niche influencers in particular.
In a Tiktok campaign Wowzi led for Bank One in Mauritius, that was aimed at attracting users to the bank’s all-new mobile app, the startup deployed the use of thousands of influencers, rather than one creator with a large following. The result, according to Brian Mogeni, co-founder and CEO of Wowzi, was a marked “spike” in app downloads for Bank One.
Wowzi is able to create an experience that opens access to all influencers across the African continent with an easy-to-use system that serves jobs and payouts on one platform.
“Once you sign up onto the platform, you select your preferences so that you can be matched with a job. You add your bank or mobile money details, then the platform will send you push notifications when brands indicate that they’d like to work with you,” said Brian Mogeni, at a press conference in Nairobi. The platform also endorses influencers for authenticity and brand suitability.
So far, in its first 18 months of operation, Wowzi has created over “200,000 jobs to empower the digital economy,” said Mike Otieno, co-founder of Wowzi.
At the end of a record year for startups in Africa, the need for skilled creatives and the platforms that fuel them will only accelerate. Will creative-focused platforms like Wowzi then become the new driver for democratising Africa’s digital skills?