How China's Boomplay beat Spotify and Apple to corner Africa's streaming market

When Chinese music streaming company Transsnet wanted to break into the lucrative African market, they partnered with parent company, Transsion holdings, the makers of popular phone brands such as Infinix and TECNO to pre-install their Boomplay app on their handsets. 

By leveraging the popularity of these phones among African users, the company was able to market Boomplay directly to the consumer. 

The app was officially released with the launch of TECNO's first music phone Boom J7 in 2015. 

Boomplay has become the largest streaming music service in Africa; it has 46 million users on the continent with a catalog of five million videos and songs, according to the company's figures. 

Moshood Isah, 30, had not heard of Boomplay when he bought his TECNO phone but since discovering the app, he says he has enjoyed exploring the pre-downloaded feature on his phone. 

"I don't think I would have known about the app if it didn't come with my phone. I found the name catchy and was excited to try it out for my music," Isah said.

The African opportunity 

While Spotify and Apple music target users mostly in developed markets, Boomplay is expanding its music streaming business in Africa. 

Its founders presently enjoy an estimated 50% of Africa's phone market share and are the largest handset providers on the continent, according to technology research firm, Canalys. 

Given its success in countries including Egypt, Nigeria, and Kenya, the team decided to invest in mobile content and data services that would be integrated into its phones. 

One of the investments, Scooper, is a media platform offering content on news, football, politics, and entertainment, among others. The other is Boomplay Music. 

Phil Choi, Transsnet's head of international acquisitions told CNN that Africa's increased mobile penetration over the past years is part of why it is Boomplay's primary market. 

"There is tremendous potential and growth being witnessed and with the increasing internet infrastructure, we feel there is great opportunity in Africa," he said.

Vibrant African music 

The continent, which is home to 1.2 billion people, currently has the fastest internet growth rates, with the number of data users across the continent increasing by more than 20% year on year, according to a report by the global digital agency, We are Social. 

And according to a 2018 GSMA report, there are currently 444 million mobile users in Africa, nearly surpassing numbers in Europe. 

A lot of this growth has been attributed to the continent's youth population, the youngest in the world, and which is expected to more than double its 2015 total of 226 million by the year 2055, according to United Nations figures. 

This population is using mobile phones for everything: shopping, social media, and transferring money. 

Choi says providing vibrant African music is at the core of Boomplay's objectives because the of the amount of music young people on the continent listen to. 

In March, Boomplay signed a direct licensing agreement with Warner Music, allowing it to distribute more than one million songs to its community of listeners in 10 countries including Cameroon, Rwanda and Zambia.

Dominating the market 

Boomplay's domination on the continent can be attributed to the smaller reach that global streaming services like Spotify and Apple music have on the continent. 

Spotify only launched its first service in Africa in March 2018, but Apple Music has a stronger presence in 12 African countries, including Tanzania, Nigeria, and Guinea-Bissau. 

Despite their more low key presence, tech analyst, Victor Ekwealor believes some African consumers prefer to use virtual private networks (VPN) to access Apple and Spotify. 

"It is hard to access Apple music and Spotify in Africa, but a lot of Africans still do through virtual credit cards and VPN services," Ekwealor told CNN. 

Still, Boomplay is forging ahead with its plans to dominate the music streaming business in Africa, after it raised $20 million in funding in April. 

"The funding will be used to fuel our expansion across more Francophone regions as well as other parts of Africa," said Choi,

"Our vision is to be the biggest distributor of African music in the world."

@CNN

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