A few weeks ago we had the chance to discuss with Virgine Berger, founder of DBTH and specialist in African tech. We’d love to share the meeting with you – we hope you’ll find it as interesting and enriching as we did!
Firefox OS Africa – Hello Virginie! Let’s start at the beginning: can you introduce yourself briefly?
Virginie Berger – Hello! I’m Virginie, the founder of DBTH, a business development and strategy agency for the creative industry and innovative services both in France and internationally.
The agency, created in 2010 and with more than 80 customers, specialises in the development of international emerging technologies, particularly in emerging areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa.We are involved in many projects in the territory, such as hackatoons, conference organizations or strategic development.With over 15 years experience in creative industries and new digital media, I am accustomed to the process of operation start-ups as global organizations and have a real expertise of the links between new technologies/brands and new audiences. From 1998-2009, I held various management positions at Microsoft and NRJ, and I joined MySpace at its French launch as Director of Marketing and Content. In 2009, I also founded Don’t Believe the Hype, a website specializing in digital and music marketing. I am also the author of “Music and Digital Strategies” (2nd edition, Editions IRMA in English on Amazon and iTunes). I have hosted the radio show “Music is Remade” on Neo Radio since 2011. I am also a Professor in Digital Strategies, speaking at many universities internationally and at over 77 conferences in 2013/2014.
Firefox OS Africa – We loved your article on digital music, mobility, music technology and entrepreneurship in Africa! Could you tell us what you think is blocking the expansion of African music in the world?
V. B. – There are many factors.
Firstly, there are those linked to the continent itself: there are 54 countries, an area which corresponds roughly to the surface of the moon; multiplicities of languages; cultures; problems of connection… it does not aid simple communication. Then there is a the problem of state treatment and/or politics of art. In most countries, there is no cultural policy, development of the art scene or accompanying artists. I come from Zimbabwe, and for example at the Haifa Festival, one of the biggest festivals in South Africa, it works without ANY grant. If you take the policies of Burkina Faso or Ghana, artists are unaccompanied and can even be monitored and imprisoned for their work dealing with freedom or independence (I recall that in Ghana, blogs are barely tolerated). There are also difficulties related to the communication system. How can we make work known to the world when we don’t have the ability to upload it on YouTube? Finally there is also our failure to listen and our curiosity. We tend to think that African music is “world” music. But it is rich and varied. Aside from particularly American producers, hiphop does not make mistakes or relax in Africa. Hip Hop in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and South African is expanding. Fortunately, many African blogs are beginning to explode around the world, such as the famous African Hip Hop Blog or Phiona Okumu, which continue to highlight influential African artists. And very many African artists that exploded outside Africa support then the scene of their country (e.g. the Hazel group come from Zimbabwe, So, Akon, etc).
Firefox OS Africa – How do you see the future of African music?
V. B.– Positive… According to the latest study of Balancing Act, there are over 150 legal platforms in Africa. Artists by necessity are DIY and therefore developed an early the concept of multiple revenue and use of social networks. After that, nothing is very developed and we are only premises of these developments, but the evolution is ongoing. YouTube moved to Nigeria, Deezer is the first streaming platform used directly in Nigeria; Kleek was launched in South Africa; Baziks is a platform halfway between Bandcamp, SoundCloud and iTunes that just successfully launched RDC. It is clear that the biggest problems are piracy, lack of dissemination and monitoring of royalties. We can indeed count on the fingers of one hand the collecting societies who do their job. But all the elements combined (explosion of startups, greater ease of connection, expansion of means of communication) can make the plan a future for music and artists in Africa.
Firefox OS Africa – Which 3 artists would you recommend giving a follow?
Firefox OS Africa – What apps and/or tech platforms give you confidence in the future of digital music?
Firefox OS Africa – Do you think that the launch of smartphones like the KLIF is a good beginning to give wider access to the Internet?
V. B. – This type of smartphone indeed allows a large number of people to connect to the Internet and evangelize the market. It still has a certain cost, is inaccessible to a large number of Africans, as it may not respond to certain requests. Other initiatives exist to develop the connection of African territory at large as well, such as Google 4 Africa initiatives, Facebook and Verone Mankou, Congolese entrepreneur behind the first African tablet.
It is true that the smartphone is not a necessity everywhere, and demand is mostly a connection request, regardless of the connection mode. 97% of Africans will have a mobile phone in 2017, in just eighteen months. But anything that allows a greater number to connect is a very positive sign for the market!
Thank you, Virginie!