The African Podfest community hoped to meet for the fourth edition of the Africa Podcast Day event on February 12, 2023. This one-day festival brings creators and listeners together to network and learn. However, back in December, cofounders Melissa Mbugua and Josephine Karianjahi announced that they had cancelled the upcoming event. This followed after preparations were made and tickets were sold, and podcasters will now miss out on the meaningful discussions and celebrations planned for the day. At the time of writing, there is no comment on whether the Africa Podcast Day event is cancelled for good or not.
Why Was The Africa Podfest Event Cancelled?
Africa Podcast Day is a sponsored event. However, the sponsors could not fully fund the event this time around, largely due to the current economic climate. Africa Podfest also had way more podcasters who needed support to attend than it did funds to hold the festival. Sadly, this left the organisers with no choice but to cancel the event, and a full refund was issued to all ticket holders.
How Does The Cancellation Affect Podcasters?
News of Africa Podcast Day event cancellation is a hard blow to many podcasters in the continent. Africa Podcast Day brings the podcasting community together as a way of finding Africa’s top podcast innovators to support and assist them. Africa Podfest has been a voice for many podcasters. These include marginalized groups like women, youths, LGBT+ communities, and people with disabilities.
The cancellation of the Africa Podfest is likely to impact podcasters and the industry negatively. Without support from the Africa Podcast festival, some podcasters face drawbacks in their podcasting endeavours, with many confronting hardships setting up and running their podcasts. There’s a real risk of a downstream effect where the growth of podcasting in Africa could be slowed by this unfortunate turn of events.
With that said, it isn’t all bad news for African podcasters. Organizations such as APVA are still supporting creators in the region, so there are still assistance opportunities out there as we move into 2023.
Can Funding Be Found?
Back to the Africa Podcast Day event, though, and what (if anything) can be done about it? Finances are the main issue, so it’s clear that investment and support are the answer.
There has been no shortage of big spending in the global podcasting market in recent years, from hefty buyouts to lucrative exclusive deals.
One company that’s spent some money supporting podcasters in Africa recently is Spotify, who created the ‘Sound of Africa’ campaign. This campaign helps African podcasters develop, expand and boost their stories and careers with its financial grants, workshops, and networking opportunities. Spotify set up a $100,000 fund for African podcasters in October 2022, with Africa Podcast Festival Ltd taking on the role of fund manager. In the end, this fund helped 13 African podcasters from Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, and Cameroon.
Spotify’s investment here was seen as a positive move by some. However, others saw it as a token gesture that didn’t go far enough. After all, Spotify is reported to have spent $1.2bn on its non-music business over the past three years. Compared to this, funding the Africa Podcast Day event would be a drop in the ocean.
The bottom line here is that there’s a great opportunity for a company like Spotify, or one of its competitors, to invest in African podcasting and put this event back on the agenda. Though whether or not this will happen is a different matter entirely.
So What Next for Africa Podcast Day?
There is still time left before February 12, and, in my opinion, Africa Podcast Day should not be cancelled. Instead, the company should consider other ways of making the event happen. Post-pandemic, we’re no strangers to digital events, so making the event completely virtual would not be a bad idea. In fact, there would be many advantages to this.
Firstly, the costs are lower. The organizers only need to spend money on virtual meeting platforms, marketing, and equipment for recording. Africa Podfest has already tackled the marketing, so that’s one step forward.
Going virtual could help the company save on a lot of expenses, from rental space, sound equipment, and sponsorship to accommodation and other demands. The company’s goal to ease the sponsorship gap for podcasters will also be achieved.
Secondly, online events guarantee a global reach as it is easier to involve more people virtually than face-to-face. This means that almost all podcasters will be able to attend the festival if it is held online.
Virtual events are very user-friendly and interactive. They have tools for polls, Q&A, live chat, and even downloadable resources for attendees. Yes, there are also benefits of being in-person that you can’t replicate online. But faced with an event versus none at all, I think it is the right move, and that it will benefit the African podcast industry as a whole.