How this Kenyan-based startup is seeking to become the Spotify of Africa

Abu Mubarik April 15, 2021
A man listens to music through headphones along a road in Abeokuta, southwestern Nigeria. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye via theafricareport

Kenyan-based startup Mdundo is looking to fill the void created in the music streaming service platform in Africa. Despite Africa’s booming music industry, many of the renowned streaming platforms such as Spotify among others have a limited presence in the continent.

Mdundo, which first launched and concentrated mainly in East Africa, has now spread to the rest of the continent with some 7 million active users. Mdundo, which means “rhythm” in Swahili, does not charge monthly fees like other international streaming platforms.

Mdundo samples mainly music from local artistes and those with international appeal, something giant international streaming services do not offer the African market. For instance, Spotify is available in only five countries.

The company makes revenue when customers stream or download music and a five to 10 seconds commercial is played before each track. The revenue generated from the ad is shared 50/50 with the artistes. Popular brands such as Coca-Cola, Safaricom, and Vise have advertised with them.

The founder and CEO of the company, Martin Nielsen, said that he was inspired by the revolution Spotify brought to the music industry in the West and so decided to create Mdundo in 2013 to serve the African market.

“The philosophy is exactly the same,” he told CNN Business. “We believe that if you create a product that is interesting enough for the user, they will move away from the illegal stream, and you can start making much more money for the music industry and the rights owners than ever before.”

Paid subscription is not as popular in Africa as illegal downloads, a phenomenon Nielsen is well aware of. And so he operates business module that considers this reality. “We don’t think that the product that Apple and Spotify are offering is the right one for the mass market in Africa. That’s why we’re doing it in a different way,” he said.

Despite Mdundo’s popularity on the continent, it is still dwarfed by other international music streaming platforms such as Boomplay. The Chinese music streaming platform has 50 million users with 90% of them from Africa.

However, Nielsen is counting on the potential growth of internet users in sub-Saharan Africa to increase users on Mdundo. “The market for music streaming and downloads in Africa is growing rapidly,” he told DW. “People are going online and there is a great demand for content. and that includes music in particular.”

Nielson says he is aiming for 18 million daily users by June 2022. “The Internet will become more and more natural on the continent and it will become easier to reach larger target groups and to earn money with it,” he said.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: April 15, 2021


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