Africa Needs Podcasts

Source: Unsplash

When I started my first episode of Sporteve podcast, I would be lying if I wrote that I knew what I was doing and where the adventure would lead me almost 10 months later.

At the moment of this writing, I host and produce four podcasts (in order of appearance — Sporteve, Parole — Future of Money — African Tech Roundup).

What once was a hobby to get the best of the lockdown turned into work that I did not believe suited me. With hindsight, I can attest that only one person told me that I should study journalism at Columbia University and present the sport section à la ESPN — I heard of that department when I was about ten and never fully grasped what my father was saying. Call it a prophecy yet to be fulfilled.

As I have shared on several episodes on Sporteve and Parole (where interviews are done in French or English), I still laughed at the thought that my mother never fully embraced my passion for sports and now, she is one of the cheerleaders although she still does not get the podcast business model. I am still figuring it out myself.

Source : Unsplash

While podcasting is a strenuous process from selecting the theme, the vision, it took me some time to write it all down and visualise on paper what I could not properly express when pitching the idea to family and friends. That moment passed, I am more aware of where I am going.

What I am realising with time is that not only the production is harder than the interview process as I am a team of one (on my personal podcasts) and selecting guests, time management, research etc. do take a lot of time. Thankfully, this is my everyday life plus I have to handle different topics from an athlete’s journey to becoming pro, a guest explaining digital payments in Africa, research on the gaming industry, blockchains etc and balance all this information. All of this is not to brag about my mental capacity but to appreciate the work done by others in the same position.

With time, I also deducted that podcasting is a wonderful tool for communication. On several occasions, I was able to approach potential guests and invite them on the shows. Some I had been introduced by common friends, some by simply doing some research and get in touch with them. The power of network via LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or simply being introduced to someone. I launched this new venture that I will soon put under one umbrella i.e. register a media company and work at producing more podcasts and content for the world to see and hear.

All of this started with my frustration to hear from people share about how women are meant to do this or that in the sports industry and with Sporteve, I was fed up of hearing the same athletes share about the successes and challenges (Serena, Alex Morgan, Lindsey Vonn etc) as if the media did not have more space to include more women to share about their journey. I am a tennis player but I think I have heard about the Williams sisters enough times to know what they eat at breakfast, what their hobbies are. Yes, this is the media game but on the men’s side, I will always have more information about the man who is ranked 100th on the circuit than a woman ranked the same. I include data collected on her game.

Sporteve is a mix of sport and Eve as in the first female ever to live on this planet and with its Hebrew meaning female without excluding the men as I still follow sports regardless of gender but somehow, I find it insightful when a woman adds her expertise. So far, I have interviewed a sports journalist, a sports psychologist, a historian, athletes, an author and all of them have given me a new perspective that I did not know I needed.

Stand Up and Shout Out by Professor Joan Steidinger gave me insights into the behind the scenes of the sports organisation where I naively thought there was some adult supervision. She went into details on Title IX and how the US was still lagging behind compared to what is expected of the federal civil right law. Being African and living in Europe, it is a good template to look up to when countries will be willing to improve women’s rights.

Raised A Warrior by Susie Petruccelli is another book that brought hope : what is possible when the environment (family, location, infrastructure etc) is working in one’s favour and how it can propulse someone’s career and in this case, attend Harvard University while playing (soccer) football for the women’s varsity team.

Parole (French for word) came nearly a week afterward the release of Sporteve’s first episode but it was the podcast that I feared to publish the most. Here I am venturing into the African ecosystem, and here and there I invite friends and experts to share their opinions on US politics and other sensitive subjects. US politics in 2020 was a divisive subject (and still is ) and more so, when Trump was still the president. Jumping into the African media sphere was not something that I was eager to do, not only because of the complicated, complex and many superlatives I can use to try to get a sense of fairness, understanding or clarity if you will. Somehow, I could not shake the idea out of my mind, to share about the Africa that I know. Mainstream media (them again) had fed some of us this idea that the continent was a lost cause and much worse, the information that I was fed was that West Africans were all the same, Morocco and Tunisia, same same. Imagine my shock when I met a Ghanian and an Ivorian. There was an awakening.!

While many were shouting racism and other terms towards God Knows Who, I realised that I did not have much information and to be honest, I was not even eager to get it because I had created this image of West Africa and that is what is.

Visit Nigeria, never … like NEVER. Botswana, I could barely locate it on the map but no willingness to discover more. Two things I knew about Botswana, the capital and the flag. (Great flag — it has to be that baby blue).

That awakening gave material me to work with. Africa is home to 1.7 billion people and if I were to interview one interesting person per week, I was set for life. Six months in, I decided to add an additional episode per week … because why not?

At first, I wanted to share about Burundi by inviting Burundians that I knew and had made an impact in their fields : politics, arts, tourism, hospitality, researchers and I wanted to leave a mark on the internet by sharing their accomplishments and putting them on the map. I am glad they were ok for this experiment and later on, I added more nationalities.

Source : Unsplash

Later on, I joined African Tech Roundup as an associate producer. ARTU is a South African that aims to serve the community by sharing information on the rise of tech hubs in Africa. Pretty exciting venture when I am who follows what is happening in Silicon Valley and gets access to the vast African ecosystem. While I am myself informed by reading TechCrunch, now I add TechCabal. I still listen to the Recode podcast; now I am producing African Tech Roundup.

For all of this to happen, I needed investment in my podcast kit tool : computer (MacBook Pro); a USB microphone (Rode NT USB), internet connection and a quiet space. As stated before, I had a vision, wrote everything down and put some cash aside. Then, I upload episodes on Anchor that does most of the publishing work except on Apple podcasts where I have to do it manually and the good thing is that it does not take long. More or less 5 minutes to set up the first episode and you do not have to do anything for the following.

Nowadays, I am in contact with potential sponsors who will help me transform the podcasts but what I am doing the most is to inform them of the immense potential that advertising via podcasts is a huge advantage. People tend to listen to podcasts with their headphones on their way to work, and on weekends, when cleaning the house or at the gym.

Podcasts have this rapport that video does not have; your ear is constantly listening.

America is huge on podcasting and the best examples are the ones that have signed exclusively with Spotify (Anchor is the producing and publishing arm of Spotify) with the likes of Joe Rogan, Dax Shepard or Mr and Mrs Obama.

In Africa and the rest of the world really, that understanding is not there yet but there is still huge potential nonetheless. The ones who will take up the space will know how to negotiate the upcoming deals. A great reminder, Spotify is now available in most African countries.

As my year two is fast approaching, I know that 2022 will not be like 2021 and I will be needing a proper studio and I will need more investments.

Planning is key.

What I hope to achieve by next year will include not only audio but also video; I will add more short content on Youtube/Vimeo where I am planning to travel to Africa and share the continent through my lens.

My advice to the one starting now is go ahead. First, draft your plan for at least a six month period and go with the flow. Use the power of network; in your environment, I believe there is always one person who is willing to help and can help. If it does work out, it is ok. If it does, the feeling is amazing.

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alex nyamoya boyi

Kirundi & Frenglish. Entrepreneur working in the media sphere by producing podcasts & consultant in tourism, sports & tech in Africa. Instagram & Twitter.