MONETIZING YOUR AUDIENCE AS AN AFRICAN CREATOR
Over the last 10 years, pursuing a creative career has become a more viable career path for many Africans. Increased mobile phone penetration and internet connectivity have made it possible for African creators to generate high-quality, relatable content at a low cost. Social media empowers creators to build large communities and achieve monetization. While in Western markets, we’ve seen the number of creators earning a livable wage ($60k by US standards) rise by as much as 41%, most African creators are still struggling.
The tools that reward creators on platforms like Instagram and TikTok are not available in most African countries, despite impressive engagement rates. As optionality continues to expand, African creators rely on the more commonplace means of generating income. The journey typically starts with either brand partnerships or ad-share from a platform like YouTube. Once they’ve built a big enough audience or feel they have unique expertise to share, they begin selling digital or physical products online to monetize their audience. In many cases, this model has proven successful, and it represents a shift from indirect monetization through social media platforms and brands to direct Creator2Fan monetization, where cash is directly exchanged for some kind of value. Achieving direct monetization as a content creator is a great way to ensure consistent and sustainable income, even with a small audience.
THE 1,000 TRUE FANS THEORY
At KANAAL, we’ve thought a lot about Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans Theory, specifically as it relates to African creators. The theory makes the argument for a strong creator middle class. You do not need a million followers and fans to earn a sustainable income from what you do. You only need 1,000 true fans. So while it’s nice to be a millionaire in both cash and community, it’s also nice to be able to afford life’s necessities and simple luxuries in cities like Lagos, Nairobi, Accra, and Johannesburg without worrying. Here’s how the theory works:
- You have to create enough each year that you can earn, on average, $100 profit from each true fan.
- You must have a direct relationship with your fans and receive their payments directly.
If you’re able to retain $100 from each true fan, then you need only 1,000 of them to earn $100,000 per year. Across most African countries, where the average annual income is under $10,000 and the cost of living is relatively low, these numbers can be a lot lower to represent local realities.
Case Studies: Bam Bam and Davido
In less than 7 days, Bam Bam, a former Big Brother Nigeria housemate, sold over 1,000 bottles of her eponymous beauty oil for ₦1,500 ($2.50), generating more than ₦1 million ($1,500). Since then, she has expanded her audience and sales to Ghana and the UK. Bam Bam’s venture into entrepreneurship is an example of how a direct relationship with one’s audience makes it possible for African celebrities to diversify their revenue streams beyond brand deals.
Although Davido is not necessarily a creator, his birthday last year is a great example of the benefits of direct engagement with your audience. What started off as a humorous call for donations to clear his Rolls-Royce from the Lagos port, ended with Davido raising over ₦200 million ($357,143) from his friends and followers. Yes, the bulk of that came from larger contributions ($2,000–$10,000), but here at KANAAL, we were more intrigued by the smaller denominations, ₦50–₦500 ($0.07–$0.7) that Davido reported. In a country as poor as Nigeria, Davido was still able to garner support from fans with far less disposable income than him to raise over $300,000.
The Payments Challenge
Monetizing your audience directly through subscriptions or donations as an African creator can be difficult for many reasons. In countries like Nigeria, where almost 50% of the general population live below the poverty line, you’re competing with essentials like food and shelter. On the other hand, access to the platforms that help you monetize your audience is constrained by their own scale of regional payment integrations.
If you think about an e-commerce platform like Shopify, they provide an all-in-one platform for creators to monetize their audience by selling and distributing physical products, but their reach across Africa is limited. Creators like BamBam typically rely on WhatsApp Business, Flutterwave Store, or Paystack Store to sell online and receive payments from local audiences. There are a growing number of competitors in this space, like Afrikea, that empower African creators to sell globally while supporting local currencies and affordable shipping options.
Subscription platforms like Patreon, OnlyFans, and Twitch are also limited by a lack of integration with regional payment infrastructure. Even when local cards are accepted and subscription prices are lower, the values are still quoted in USD, which makes local consumers more hesitant to spend. For example, Twitch reduced monthly subscriptions in Nigeria from $4.99 to $2.49. Despite these challenges, the earning potential is significant. As a creator with 1,000 paying subscribers, you could earn $2,490 per month on Twitch, more than twice what you would earn from 1 million views on YouTube as a creator based in Africa.
We are seeing more African creators launching their careers and developing highly relatable and interactive content on social media channels. As the number of creators continues to grow, we’re betting on subsequent growth in the tools that would empower them to generate income from their local audiences while focusing on doing what they love.