Nigerian online streaming service firm opens shop in Rwanda

iROKO Partners has replaced its London office with one in Kigali, as it shift focus of its online television streaming services to the African market.
Journalists cover the last Kwita Izina event last July. Local producers need a platform like iROKO to make money off their content. (File)
Journalists cover the last Kwita Izina event last July. Local producers need a platform like iROKO to make money off their content. (File)

iROKO Partners has replaced its London office with one in Kigali, as it shift focus of its online television streaming services to the African market.

Known to many as Africa’s Netflix, iROKO started out as an online streaming service for Nollywood movies in Nigeria back in 2012. The firm has since grown to include two offices in Africa and one in New York.

The Kigali office is the third in Africa. According to Jason Njoku, the founder of the company, which has its  headquarters in Nigeria, the London office was closed down in May this year, with the intention of opening an East Africa office in Nairobi, Kenya.

However, after visiting the region a couple of months ago, Njoku was impressed with Rwanda and decided that Kigali was a better option, he said.

He assigned Peter Brunt, iROKO Partners vice president, with the responsibility of setting up the East African office in Kigali.

Brunt, in an interview with The New Times, said Kigali is a business friendly city. He registered the company with Rwanda Development Board on Tuesday and was impressed with how fast the registration process moved on.

“I went in and got it done in less than two hours, then got the certificate on my email six hours later,” said Brunt.

“This would not have been the case in Nairobi or Lagos,” he added.

Brunt said once iROKOtv starts giving people the option of downloading content, it will  help make their services more accessible. He said although their streaming services work well on the 3G network, downloading will make access even better.

“If one wants to watch something when they’re in a bus, for example, it can work well at the beginning but part way through the journey, streaming becomes difficult. So if they’re able to download the content before their journey, they can comfortably watch whatever they want,” Brunt said.

He said Kigali was chosen because of the government’s commitment to becoming a leader in information communications technology. He also said he was impressed by the city’s level of development.

Njoku said because of cheap internet prices and easy access, iROKOtv services are even more accessible in East Africa than West Africa.

The company is currently working on a deal with Tigo that will allow customers to buy access to their streaming services and internet usage in the same bundle.

Albert Rudatsimburwa, a media investor in the process of launching his own streaming service in Rwanda, said he is glad to hear that iROKOtv is coming to Kigali.

“We already have the infrastructure for streaming services,” Rudatsimburwa said.

His company is launching a streaming service called eFABA (For Africa by Africa) where users can stream content on any device from 50 different TV channels and 25 radio channels.

“I’ve already showed my project to different people and they’re impressed,” he said.

Rudatsimburwa said eFABA works well on the 3G network and even better on the 4G network. They hope to offer this service starting in October.

Njoku said the Kigali iROKO office will help them add an East African perspective to their business and focus on penetrating the TV internet market in Africa.

“The future belongs to Africa,” Njoku said.

 Filmmakers optimistic

Eric Kabera, the director of Kwetu Film Institute, said streaming services like iROKOtv can help generate some funding for the local film industry.

He said local producers need a platform to make money off their content because they’re having trouble engaging with the local television networks.

“More often you find people giving their content away for free, and that prohibits them from growing and making more products,” Kabera said.

He said if they are given the option to sell their content to streaming services, it will not only attract funding for them but will also help generate more subscribers for the companies providing the services.

 

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