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African Music, Interactive Media At Texas Festival

The potential market for Internet-based businesses in Africa was showcased at the annual South by Southwest Festival in Texas, along with African films and music. Participants from the continent touted Africa as the new frontier for interactive media at the recent festival.

At this booth sponsored by the independent music exporters of South Africa, or IMEXSA, South by Southwest participants were able to learn about what that country has to offer.

Organizer Renneth Tschiikule says her country is bursting with musical talent.

"We have many artists, that if they come here, I don't know, but they are going to make a huge impact," said Tschiikule.

She says they do not target any particular race in the United States because much of the music, from traditional to Rah Gah, Reggae and modern urban music, appeals to a broad spectrum of the market.

The production values in South African motion pictures and music videos are also on a par with those in the United States or Europe.

Nations in other parts of Africa may not be as developed, but they are emerging as sources of, and markets for, music, movies and interactive media.

Fadzai Makanda is the New York-based business development manager for Iroko Partners, the largest online distributor of African content.

"We think there really is a resurgence in interest in Africa, stories by Africans for Africans, and we think it is really exciting," said Makanda.

She says her company has tapped into the demand for “Nollywood” movies - movies made in Nigeria, the world's second-largest film producing country - and is streaming them online in many parts of the world.

"By putting it online, we are able to fulfill the massive global demand that there is, and we are hoping to expand this and where I think the growth will come from is in Africa since, right now, only 15 percent of our traffic is coming from there," she said.

Expanding online access is a major goal for African nations that see an opportunity to leapfrog into new technologies.

Nadeem Juma works with the AIM Group digital media agency in Tanzania.

“We have four major mobile operators who have all laid out 3G networks countrywide. They are now laying their fiber networks, so there is huge investment going into access for data," said Juma.

Right now, some 140 million people in Africa have Internet access, but that represents only 13 percent of the population. By the end of this decade Internet penetration in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to reach nearly 25 percent.