Afripods: A podcast hosting platform focusing on African stories told by Africans | Podcasting | DW | 25.10.2023
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Afripods: A podcast hosting platform focusing on African stories told by Africans

Afripods, a pan-African podcast hosting platform, draws on a rich audio and storytelling culture to give African podcasters space to tell their own stories while making it easier for them to be paid for their efforts.

Afripods Molly Jensen, Murugi Munyi and Lydia KM

Afripods' Molly Jensen flanked by Murugi Munyi and Lydia KM of the TMI podcast

Molly Jensen is the CEO of Afripods, a free pan-African podcast hosting platform headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. It’s the technical infrastructure that enables the digitization and distribution of African stories across the continent and the world.

Jensen was born and raised in New York – her mother is from Ghana and her father from the US –  although Kenya is her home now. Since stepping into her role as CEO three years ago, she’s watched the platform grow to include podcasting talent from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Ghana.

Her background is in people management, and she has studied marketing and consumer behavior. She brings her skills in understanding people’s needs and figuring out solutions to help podcasters hone their craft, tell their stories and, very importantly, get paid for doing so.

DW Akademie: What drew you to podcasting in the first place?

Molly Jensen: When you look at Africa and the impact of sound and audio, there's a huge opportunity here that really is much different than in the West. Radio is so impactful here, it's the most successful way to get information. There’s a real culture of audio. In addition, storytelling is so fundamental to culture. When you look at that mixed with the fastest digital growth in the world, it feels like the opportunity here could be massive. I feel like podcasting provides a really cool opportunity to bridge the gap in the diaspora and also allow creators to own their own narratives. Globally, I don't think we've often heard African stories from African people. That's something worth exploring and worth protecting.

Molly Jensen

Molly Jensen, CEO of Afripods, a podcast platform

Is that one of the main goals of Afripods, allowing Africans to tell their own stories, instead of always having other people tell them?

Our big goal would be to build the largest library of African audio stories on the planet, also in African languages. We have millions of streams and thousands of podcast episodes in our library. We have the ability to categorize in up to 50 languages and have content from over 30 countries. Right now, culturally, Africa is extremely exciting and cool. I mean, there's always been talk of opportunity in Africa, which in my opinion has felt a little bit exploitative. But now it feels like everyone wants to attach to the culture, the land, the food, the clothes, the music and the experience in a way that's more about curiosity and learning. I think podcasts are such a cool vehicle, especially when it comes to learning, to feeling connected, to getting information. And historically these stories haven't been told before. People haven't created platforms and spaces that are specifically highlighting the immense value and creativity of creators on the continent when it comes to audio. As podcasting continues to grow, creators should be highlighted in a way that feels authentic and created for them.

There are a lot of podcast hosting platforms out there and even a giant like YouTube is advancing in the podcasting field. Why do you feel like a hosting platform like Afripods is needed?

I think that there is an inherent value in focusing on the continent and capturing the data and highlighting the value being created. As a hosting platform, I feel like we're an extremely critical piece of helping create a podcasting ecosystem on the ground. Ultimately, what Afripods does as a platform is build out the advertising funnel for audio on demand in Africa. Radio has been the strongest medium for a significant amount of time here, and advertisers are comfortable advertising on radio, but the question becomes, in the age of digital transformation how are advertisers going to capture this new digital opportunity? 

Does Afripods make monetization easier than it is on some of the other platforms?

Right now, no podcast host pays African creators on the continent directly. In order to get paid in Africa as a creator, you may need to have a bank account in the United States or Europe. Afripods monetization is currently in beta and can manually pay podcasters. We have developed the UI and UX for the dashboard and are slowly planning on rolling it out at the top of 2024.

Afripods Creators of the Mics are Open and Vibes and Inshallah podcasts

Creators of the Mics are Open and Vibes and Inshallah podcasts

You mentioned that your monetization program is still in beta. How are you going out and finding advertisers who might be interested in advertising on shows on your platform?

There's already a demand for podcast advertising right now. Advertising companies and media agencies are directly reaching out to podcasters. I actually meet with advertisers here pretty frequently and they're trying to figure out how podcasting advertising fits into their media budgets. We use a world-class leader of podcast advertising placement so we have that tech solution integrated into the platform. The next step is making sure that you have the rails in place so that you can pay across multiple countries and regions. So beta for us is rolling out into certain markets, and seeing how it does before we go continent-wide. It’s complicated. You have to consider laws regarding taxes and digital creators and make sure that you're compliant in 54 countries.

That sounds like a big challenge. What are some others?

It's a young market and like people are still learning and becoming educated as to what podcasting is and what it could become. I think access to resources, whether it be studio-quality microphones or other equipment, is challenging. These costs can be potentially prohibitive to some creators. Additionally, building your audience and how to market your content is a challenge we hear from podcasters who currently engage with us.

DWA PodcastTraining_Standard-Banner

DW Akademie’s PodcasTraining project supports media partners to develop, produce and distribute new (crisis) podcasts: It is supported by the BMZ

How could some of these other challenges be tackled?

I think the biggest potential solution is leaning into your community, podcast communities that exist, as well as community building for the spaces you want to see. It’s important to find people who are interested in the same things that you're doing, solving problems that maybe you’re facing, and also developing spaces where you can lean on support, where you can celebrate your wins, where you can ask questions and where you can learn. I think finding people who can help teach you is important.

We've talked about excitement and growth around podcasting in Africa, but if you follow the news of the sector in the US, the outlook is less optimistic. Spotify has laid off a lot of its podcast division and the sector seems to be in a period of contraction.

I think that it’s a mistake to compare the African market to the Western market. And I think that's why a lot of multinational businesses struggle when they try to move their US or Western-based model to the continent. Sometimes Western businesses try to come into Africa with the same approach as back home. Here, the landscape is very different. You're not just dealing with one country, you're dealing with 54. Of course, it's hard to say if podcasting will be successful from a user, growth or financial perspective in an emerging market. But does the interest right now suggest that people are interested in audio? Yes. Does history show that African people relate to the audio experience? Yes. Has radio been impactful with advertising and generated revenue? Yes. So, will this industry be successful? I am bullish that it will. Given our audio culture, if you’re going to make a bet, you might as well bet here.

Let’s circle back to the platform question. Do things like YouTube’s podcasting efforts scare you? Will the big guys roll in and roll over Afripods?

What I ultimately want is for creators to get paid on their content. So ultimately, more players coming in is better for the creators. If we get to be part of the ecosystem pushing to pay African creators then ultimately the conversation shifts to the value these creators are providing and figuring out a sustainable solution to get them paid. Bigger players coming into the space means that we're in the right place at the right time. And I think we're all about to ride this wave together. We all have our own advantages and our unique ways of providing solutions to the creators on the ground.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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