Tag Archives: Global cultural trade

Nairobi gets smart mobility, one trust-building app at a time

a version of this interview first appeared on Smart City Africa blog

​Last week we spoke about ways in which city authorities and national governments in Africa solve congestion through mass transit innovation. Now we invite you to look at private initiatives that aim to enhance mobility experience in African cities. Jason Eisen of Kenyan Maramoja app sat down with Smart City Africa’s Andy Kozlov to look at the role of trust as we criss-cross our cities.

Jason Eisen of Kenyan Maramoja app
Jason Eisen of Kenyan Maramoja app

Andy Kozlov: You say that Maramoja is not just a smart mobility app. It’s rather about building trust in a community. How so? What are the applications that you promote apart from connecting citizens with their trusted taxi driver?

MARAMOJA is absolutely about smart mobility. We just happen to believe that facilitating trust is the most important contribution we can make to the mobility (and eventually) larger on-demand economy. Many of the challenges people face when trying to move around Nairobi and other cities are about interactions between people – trust. Do I trust this motorbike taxi to be a safe rider with a well-maintained bike? Do I trust this taxi driver to charge me a fair price and get me there safely? Do I trust this person to carry my son?

As for other applications of our trust engine, you could think of it like this – MARAMOJA the mobility solution is an open product – our trust engine is in limited beta with our mobility clients but we have big eyes to the future and see ourselves playing a key role as the “trust” infrastructure layer for the on-demand economy. 

screencapture-maramoja-co-ke-1460959916123

Andy Kozlov: For many from the international crowd, when you talk about Kenya and mobile tech, it is Ushahidi that springs to mind. Has Ushahidi had any influence whatsoever on Maramoja and the values behind your app?

Ushahidi is definitely one of the great success stories from Kenya but that is 2007 already. There have been so many great technological advances out of Kenya in the 9 years since that there’s really no shortage of places to look to for inspiration. I would say that the values behind Ushahidi very much reflect the general values of the startup culture in Nairobi – which if I had to put into words I would say is about technology for people – technology that builds on our humanity and the bonds between us, rather than replace or diminish them. MARAMOJA is no different. We reconceptualized the taxi app from the ground up to be about relationships and trust. Human concepts. In doing so, we have built something in the trust engine that we believe will also have global application.

Unlike Uber, Maramoja app uses zone-based pricing to eliminate conflict between driver and passenger
Unlike Uber, Maramoja app uses zone-based pricing to eliminate conflict between driver and passenger

Andy Kozlov: How different are you from Uber?

Our basic mobility service offering is similar, transport on-demand through an app, but the similarities end there. I think most of our core differences stem from our values. We are built around people and relationships. As such, we always try to align incentives of ourselves, our drivers, and passengers. Take pricing – Uber uses time & distance which immediately puts the driver and passenger at conflict. We use zone-based pricing because it eliminates this conflict between driver and passenger. We also recognize that not every car on the market here is newer than 6 years old, so rather than excluding many great drivers we find that allowing our users to choose between the various available drivers that have accepted their ride, based on their proximity, their relationship with the driver, their car, credentials or any other factor that the client personally cares about.

Polina Kazak, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Maramoja, comes from Belarus
Polina Kazak, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Maramoja, comes from Belarus

Andy Kozlov: Superficially speaking, any other IT group in some other African city can come up with a solution similar to Maramoja. Still, what makes you stand out? Why are you convinced there is room for expansion for your app into other African countries?

Perhaps some other IT group could devise a similar solution but our UX and technology will set us apart from copycats. Trust is an incredibly emotional concept that relies great design to convey that human quality through an app. Co-Founder and Creative Director Polina Kazak has been with the company since day one. She creates that emotional connection with our users that gives the feeling of comfort, and security that can only come with working with trusted service providers. The company hit a major turning point when we met Bastian Blankenburg, PhD, who serves as MARAMOJA’s CTO. Bastian is a brilliant computer scientist with tremendous expertise artificial intelligence and machine learning as they pertain to trust. In short, I suppose I can say it will be our people that set us apart. I couldn’t imagine a more purpose-built team to build the future of trust and on-demand than the MARAMOJA crew.

Andy Kozlov: In what African cities can we expect to use your app by early 2017? Will the first solution on offer always be trusted taxi service-related?

You’ll have to wait and see…but don’t be surprised when we show up near you.

Andy Kozlov:  How come your team of developers has a German and a Belorussian specialists?

There’s no particular reason our CTO is German or our Creative Director Belorussian any more than there’s a reason that the CEO is American. Our first CTO was Kenyan, it just so happened to not work out with him. Each of our team members have their jobs because they are the absolute perfect people to fill them – nothing to do with origin. But one of the great things about the Nairobi tech scene, is that the talent pool really is global. We can draw the best from around the world and will continue to do so.

Andy Kozlov: Did they get attracted to the project specifically because of the exciting prospect to help urban communities in Kenya?

No doubt, each of is inspired by and believes that our work has a positive impact on Kenyans. I think they got attracted to the project for the enormity of my vision, of where we could go, and the revolution we could bring to the global on-demand economy. And they brought their own visions too – we were lucky enough that our visions really jived with each others and we instantly began making great strides together. There’s no feeling in the world like being part of a great team.

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Brazil is already a major exporter of content but it’s known for just one genre: drama

originally prepared by Andy Kozlov (@KozlovAndy) for Markettime.info,  Your 24/7 Source about World’s TV Markets

The sixth edition of Rio Content Market (March 9-11, with a warm-up day on March 8) saw 3,000-plus executives from 32 countries register for the event.

The event aims to continue expanding the international market for multi-platform content produced by Brazil’s TV and digital media industries. The whole package is there: keynote speakers, lectures, panel discussions, content screenings, face-to-face meetings and Rodadas de Negócios (Business Rounds) pitching sessions.

Some 1,180 business meetings were scheduled with more than 1,000 projects being presented; 206 executives spoke at conference panels; 198 key players traveled to Brazil to acquire content.

This year’s buyer list featured top global OTT companies: Amazon Studios, Hulu and Netflix. Philip Matthys, Hulu’s head of business affairs for original series, came to present their business model and commissioning guidelines for original content for the streaming service

Al Arabiya (UAE), First HDTV (Russia), TVP (Poland), Canal 22 (Mexico), ZDF-Arte (France-Germany) and NHK (Japan) also attend RCM to seek co-production partners.

Delegations from 6 countries — Argentina, Canada, France, the UK, South Africa and Germany — exhibited at the RCM 2016.

A total of 18 dramas, documentary and kids’ program projects were selected to form part of the Rio Content Market’s pitching sessions this year. There producers had seven minutes to present a project and another seven for a debate with the panel.

The worldwide trend towards more locally developed content was reinforced by Keshet International (global distribution arm of Israeli media company Keshet Media Group) rolling out their brand new format Elevator Pitch, developed in partnership with a Brazilian producer.

Conference panels convened in seven different rooms to discuss various hot topics of the Brazilian and international TV industries: business regulation, content trends, what buyers look for.

Launched in 2011, just after the approval of Brazil’s Law 12.485, Rio Content Market became witness to a revolution in the Brazilian indie TV production. The 2011 law obliged pay TV operators to air 3.5 hours of local content per week.

After the recent currency devaluation in Brazil and the increase in the production costs, free TV players have begun to take advantage of the state-funding programs, such us Fundo Setorial do Audiovisual and Article 39 of the SeAC Law, through partnerships between independent production companies and pay TV networks.

Manoel Rangel, head of the Brazilian Film Agency was quoted as saying that at this stage “the sector is mature enough for the regulation of the VOD market.”

The Brazilian Film Commission Network (Rebrafic) and PACT (trade association representing the commercial interests of UK independent television, film, digital, children’s and animation media companies) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote co-productions of films, TV and other audiovisual projects. The Canadian Media Found (CMF) closed a deal with funding agency SPCine from Sao Paulo to develop five joint projects between Brazilian and Canadian companies.

One trend is clear in Brazil: there has to be more product diversification. As London-based industry publication C21Media observes, “Brazil is already a major exporter of content but [it’s] known for just one genre: drama.”

Curated by Esmeralda Produções and organized by Fagga | GL Events Exhibitions, Rio Content Market is now recognized as one of the largest events for the audiovisual industry in Latin America.

During its previous five editions more than 14,000 industry professionals took part in the event. The trade show has been organized annually by the Brazilian Association of Independent TV Producers (ABPITV). ABPTIV brings together over 580 companies from all of Brazil’s five regions that produce TV and new media content for the domestic and international market.

Find more about Rio Content Market on MarketTime

You can write to Andy Kozlov on andreakozlov@gmail.com

CEE, MENA and CIS are behind 20% of all Global TV, Film Content and Adaptation Rights Sales

originally prepared by Andy Kozlov (@KozlovAndy) for Markettime.info,  Your 24/7 Source about World’s TV Markets

The sixth edition of DISCOP Istanbul saw a total of 709 participants from 70 countries take part in the three-day market, numbers similar to the 2013 edition, a year-on-year drop from last year caused by recent security threats in Turkey.

102 TV content sales organisations were in attendance and reported strong business.  

Expanded human resources and reinforced onsite matchmaking assistance delivered a better than average number of meetings among the participating sellers, buyers and producers. Co-organizer Basic Lead’s pro-active meetings organization is one of the services that make their Discop family of markets stand out in the MEA region (Middle East and Africa).

Many attendees highlighted that this edition’s quieter pace provided more time to establish relevant relationships with the 402 programming executives who arrived in Istanbul to acquire film, TV series, adaptation rights and packaged TV channels and replenish their grids with new content.

20% of all global film, TV content and adaptation rights sales are represented by Turkey, CEE, MENA and CIS countries.

In Turkey, the boom in drama exports arrested development of the local unscripted segment, formats for export in particular. Turkish networks prefer to stay on the safe side and import big-name unscripted formats rather than delve into original ideas.

In Arab markets, the success of content rests with its virality on social media and values in the case of local content. International popularity is important in the case of Western content acquisitions.

This year, FRAPA, an organization that aims to protect format rights worldwide, teamed up with Discop Istanbul for their conference sessions known under the name of Discopro.

Fiction takes central stage in most of the Eurasian territories. According to Prensario International, an industry publication, “Fiction formats will continue to be heavily demanded at this Discop. Not only the Middle East is seeking scripted series to adapt, but also Turkey (from Korea mainly, but also Italy), and some North African and CIS countries.”

The organizers of Discop Istanbul managed to get the Tech Export Union of Turkey to invite 100 buyers on a HOSTED BUYER program.

Interestingly, 60% of the buyers present at Discop Istanbul do not attend other international content fairs.

Launched back in the day as Discop West Asia, Discop Istanbul follows the entrepreneurial intuition of the first years of Discop East, also founded by Basic Lead, which was from the outset held in Budapest, Hungary. NATPE acquired Discop East in 2012, organized the 2013 edition in Budapest and then moved to Prague, Czech Republic — to later return to Budapest.

Dates for the next edition of Discop Istanbul will be announced soon, following a survey to be undertaken in the coming days to help the organizers select 2017 dates that will maximise the effectiveness and return on investment for DISCOP Istanbul organizers.

Around this time of year, Discop Istanbul is followed by Rio Content Market (March 9-11). As London-based industry publication C21Media observes, “Both [market-hosting nations Turkey and Brazil] are already major exporters of content but are known for just one genre: drama. One theme unites both markets and that’s the need for product diversification.”

You can write to Andy Kozlov on andreakozlov@gmail.com

Africa’s film markets and video content distribution trends (1/2)

by Andy Kozlov (@KozlovAndy)

It’s not a film unless it has a distribution plan.

How about a multi-decade distribution deal?

Distributors are in the game to profit from films that are easy to sell, not to nurture filmmakers. By this logic apparently, an independent film will languish on the shelf indefinitely if it is not marketable.

The same will be true for most of you aspiring TV producers.

Get into the habit of attending African content markets

So where do you look to make yourself marketable? Experience shows, attending content markets is a must. And every month you can be part of one or even a bunch of them, depending on the season.

As you do that, make sure you get to know your buyers’, co-producers’ needs, address their concerns in the bud. In a nutshell — be love-able.

Get both global and local in your narrative. Avoid contrived situations — they suck

Some TV format ideas can make you super famous  more than others. But the general trend is for your narrative to be both global and local at the same time. As Wangeci Murage, managing partner at Nairobi, Kenya-based Media Pros Africa, explains commenting on Russell Southwood’s Netflix in Africa – Three reasons why it will not conquer everything any time soon:

Netflix do acquire content but their main aim is to build their inventory through original productions. Their [January 2016] entry into the “world” market signals an upsurge in local content production, to which they will own full rights.

Content developers have also started shifting their mindset and have began producing content with global appeal and local relevance. This is true of the four African countries [mentioned by Mr Southwood in descending order they are Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Kenya;] so they will find a market.

Russell Southwood is the CEO of Balancing Act, a consultancy and research company focused on telecoms, internet and broadcast in Africa. He is one of those people you can often run into at media markets across Africa.

Speaking of South African film industry, veteran producer Jeremy Nathan estimated in May 2012: we are making 25 to 30 films a year now which is really very impressive. Ten years ago we were only making five or six films a year.

And as Balancing Act points out:

There are currently some 136 VoD platforms in Africa, both local, regional and international.

Outside Africa, Thema TV was the first provider of ethnic TV channels in Europe, particularly in France, with the successful launch of “The African Bouquet“, “The German Bouquet” and the “Indian Ocean Bouquet”.

In Africa, take M-Net, the Naspers-owned terrestrial pay TV channel. In 2008, M-Net’s AfricaMagic, one of the leading channels on the DStv bouquet,  launched Africa Magic Plus the growth of which further prompted a flowering of additional channels that catered for culture and language-specific African communities, inclusive of Yoruba, Hausa and Swahili speaking groups.

In 2013, in Africa there were some 535 local TV channels, each responsible for the transmission of up to 1,000 hours of fresh programs annually.

So on the one hand, the distribution channels are expanding. But so does competition from other African content producers. Mind you, even Ukraine in Eastern Europe now shoots Nollywood films. However that also means that Zimbabwean film distributors get to network with their Slav peers at the likes of Kiev Media Week.

As of 2013, African content production ranged from 3-4,000 hours per year. During the 1990s, this figure was lower than 100.

For African content producers concerned about growing competition, Media Pros Africa’s Wangeci Murage paints a picture as bright as it can probably get in the world of unkown unkowns:

This is an age-old phenomenon that is much welcome in our industry. The likes of DSTV’s Showmax and Buni TV would not be in existence if it wasn’t for forward thinkers such as IROKO TV. They saw a gap and went out to fill it. There may be a few holes in the service delivery but nonetheless, they serve a majority of African and International markets in search of Nollywood content.

€3,000 to 30,000 checks handed directly to directors and producers at the Marché International du Cinéma Africain in Ouagadougou undoubtedly makes a good news story.

But this is where those of you who prefer to think long-term should ask themselves:

Is it worth giving away the exclusivity rights on any broadcast on the African continent for a quarter of a century ?

Whatever your decision is, you also want to avoid becoming totally dependent on the international festival circuit for the distribution of your content.

In Tanzania they say 70% of the population do not have access to TV.  If you feel passionate about reaching out to the rural folks who are underserved by cinemas, have limited mobile internet access (2G?); if you feel like you are called to bridge the gap between indigenous people, rural and urban Africans, consider going it alone. Well..not totally alone:

The global list of your outdoor movie partners is growing like never before

FilmAid International  is committed to a participatory approach, teaching skills and involving local communities with the media making process.

Open Air Cinema with its world’s premiere outdoor cinema systems and inflatable movie screens

Short & Sweet with its largest inflatable screen in South Africa

Sunshine Cinema is a mobile cinema that converts solar power to social impact. Through various short films, facilitated workshops and “how to” videos they address social and environmental challenges through community facilitated engagement.

Cine Vagabundo (The Wandering Cinema), a Colombian non-profit that has recognized the fact that with only 5% of cities and townships that have cinemas, the Latin American nation is not an exception, that something needs to be done to link content producers with their digitally divided audiences on a global scale. And locally — glocally.

The author can be reached on andreakozlov@gmail.com