Podcasting is on the rise in Africa today. One South African report, for instance, noted a jump in listeners from 22% in 2019 to 48% in 2022 among metro populations in the country. Popularity has even given rise to an annual festival known as Africa Podcast Day.
African podcasts are receiving widespread acclaim, too. Whether it’s “I said what I said,” which discusses the millennial African experience, or Sincerely Accra, which covers urban life in Ghana’s capital, they are drawing in audiences not just from African countries but also internationally.
One initiative has been especially instrumental in putting African podcasters on the map: Afripods, a free podcast hosting platform based in Nairobi, Kenya. Founded in 2017, Afripods has grown into a central hub where podcasters and listeners can access a wide selection of pan-African content. Categories range from comedy to true crime and podcasts are available in up to 50 languages, including Xhosa, Kikuyu and Yoruba.
While podcasting giants like Spotify and Apple still lead, a 2022 report found that Afripods was among the most used apps for podcasts in Africa. The platform has an ultimate goal of creating the largest library of African audio stories as part of a wider podcast movement helping African voices be heard.
The need and desire for homegrown African content has always been present, and Molly Jensen, CEO of Afripods, recognized this from the start of her position as CEO.
“We saw that podcasters in Africa were looking to connect with like-minded creatives and created community initiatives for them to connect,” she said. “We saw that listeners were struggling to find African content so we separated podcasts by language and country to make it easier for them to be discoverable.”
As Afripods is chiefly a hosting platform, it prioritizes creators' needs by promoting their podcasts on social media and through live events. It shares the latest industry statistics with the network.
On social media, Afripods regularly spotlights podcasts across wide-ranging categories. Recently, the platform highlighted the Kenyan podcast “In my feelings,” which talks about mental health, and the Ghanaian show “Free your mind,” which deep-dives into Ghanaian society.
Afripods is dedicated to forming a network and community among African podcasters, too, chiefly through #AfropodsMeets, which uses Instagram Lives, Twitter Spaces, and live panels to engage with creators.
“Podcasting is very unique and the experience, as a podcaster, can feel very isolating when the people around you do not understand what you are doing,” said Gathoni Ngumba, community manager of Afripods. “These spaces allow podcasters to share things like the best equipment to use, or give them someone to help celebrate their first 100 downloads. For new podcasters that is important.”
Advertising through podcasts offers potential to help ensure sustainability for African podcasters, Jensen believes. “Many of the advertising agencies here in Africa have a discretionary percentage to spend annually on new media, including podcasting, and how it can be leveraged as a tool to access unique and highly curated niche audiences,” she explained.
This has the potential to inspire a mutually beneficial relationship where advertisers break into markets across Africa and in return podcasts see a boost in reach and profit.
“I believe that advertisers are looking for new ways to engage with people and develop strong ties to communities in fresh, new ways in which we will see podcasting leveraged as a vehicle to do so,” said Jensen.
Barriers to podcasting on the continent remain, especially regarding media accessibility and affordability.
“Some of the challenges we are seeing in the podcasting industry on the continent include access to studios, price of production, access to editors, materials ,community, and education to learn about podcasting and the ability to be paid for their content,” said Jensen.
As podcasting is still in early stages in Africa, there’s room for greater profitability. Investors are increasingly eyeing new media on the continent for its bankability, which could work in podcasting’s favor.
Afripods is already expanding its reach with countries that may not have as much visibility in the industry, such as Uganda and Zambia. Jensen is also eager to see more industry research in other parts of Africa.
“I believe as podcasting research becomes available in more regions and the ecosystem grows, we will learn more about how podcasting has developed in other countries,” said Jensen. “I personally am very excited to learn more about the Francophone market and expect to see significant growth in the region.”
Ngumba is looking forward to seeing community developments in African podcasting firsthand. Afripods’ latest virtual event was focused on Egypt, and they have more events in the pipeline.
“We have five more country meet-ups planned for the year. [This] month we will be in Rwanda. We also have Malawi, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Senegal. I am really excited to hear what podcasting looks like in each of these countries,” said Ngumba.