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The Download

Tech updates from around Africa — on music platforms, podcasts and more.


A small fish makes big waves

As recently as the late 2000s, the field of animated film in South Africa was fairly quiet. Yet a young, ambitious studio is now establishing the country as somewhat of an African Hollywood. In recent years, Triggerfish has produced the third and fourth highest-grossing films in South Africa’s history (Adventures of ZambeziaandKhumba, respectively), with one of its latest flicks,Stick Man, racking up awards on three continents. Producer Vanessa Sinden not only works to create African storiesbyAfricans, but also to develop narratives for African girls that go well beyond the standard princess storyline, helping them imagine themselves as scientists, engineers and leaders. And her team does this all from a nearly two-century-old barn outside of Cape Town.

A podcast analyzes Pan-African tech

For a weekly dose of smart tech talk and updates on African innovation, the digitally inclined can tune into a free podcast called African Tech Round-Up. Available to stream at (and through SoundCloud), the podcast is produced out of South Africa and covers the latest in digital issues and invention throughout the continent and beyond. Now more than 100 episodes deep, the program features expert voices on matters such as the cryptocurrency controversy, Africa’s relationship with Uber, the latest in startup investments, advancements in renewable energy tech, and other timely topics.

An online academy equips African entrepreneurs

While excitement about the African startup scene continues to grow, many of the resources available for founders and investors remain focused on Silicon Valley. VC4A, an online community for players across the African startup space, aims to change that through Startup Academy — a collection of free online modules for founders working in Africa. The curriculum looks at the fundamentals of starting, growing and financing a business, from raising capital to honing your audience and building a team. And, to bring that African advantage, the content is shaped by a group of educators and practitioners all involved with the African startup scene themselves.

Startups bring music platforms to West Africa

While West Africa celebrates a deep and rich music heritage (giving birth to afro-music genres and world-famous singers), the region’s music industry has struggled to thrive in the digital era. (Spotify is unavailable, music piracy is common, and not all West Africans have credit cards to purchase digital tunes.) Enter several Senegalese startups that are delivering digital music through mobile phone technology. Through similar companies MusikBi and JokkoText, users can buy songs via text message, paying for them with mobile money, phone credit or cash transfers. Deedo, which features similar payment methods, recently brought music streaming to Senegal, Mali and Ivory Coast (as well as France). Even better, these companies bring more returns to African artists in the process.