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Muthoni Waigwa on African Creatives and African Content Production

Our latest episode features Muthoni Waigwa, a Kenyan creative entrepreneur with over 12 years’ experience in the media and entertainment industry. Muthoni is a digital content producer and creator and the co- founder of a graphic design and audio-visual production company, Nifty Works Plus Limited, which has been in operation for over 8 years. Muthoni is also a podcast producer and the host of Moments with Nderru Podcast which was launched in March 2020. 

On this episode, Muthoni speaks about creating and producing African content, barriers to consumption of African content and possible policy and other infrastructure improvements that may address the daily challenges African players in the creative space face. 

Listen here: Apple | Google | Spotify


**The transcript below has been generated through software, and may contain errors. Viewpoints with Brenda is designed to be heard. We strongly recommend that you listen to the episode for context and speech emphasis before quoting the text below in print.

BN: On today’s podcast, I speak to Muthoni Waigwa, a creative entrepreneur with over 12 years’ experience in the media and entertainment industry. She’s a digital content producer and creator and the co-founder of a graphic design and audio-visual company, nifty works class limited. A company which has been in operation for over eight years. Muthoni is also a Podcast Producer, and the host of Moments with Nderru podcast, which was launched in March 2020. So Muthoni, welcome to the podcast.

MW (00:52): Thank you so much for having me, Brenda, it’s an honour to be here.

BN: So what inspired you into pursuing a career in content production and creation?

MW (01:02): As a little girl, I would always be drawn to TV or to TV shows and film. And each time I would watch, let’s say, a show like Sesame Street, or a film like Lion King. I was always captivated by the different characters that were being portrayed. And I would always find myself drawn in and I’d tell myself, you know what, there seems to be a magical place out there that I want to be a part of. As time would have it, obviously, you grow up and you realize, well, to create such pictures or shows there’s a whole process behind it. I didn’t actually study broadcasting or communications of film, I learned on the job. Once I graduated university, I joined advertising and I was in account management. From there, I got to understand how ideas are brought to life, be it a TV commercial, or a documentary. From there, I transitioned into a production company where I was a producer. Being there I just realized, you know what, I actually want to start my own company with my business partner, who is my sister. And that’s how I got into this space. But from a very young age, I knew that I wanted to be part of that, world, that world of captivating stories and characters.

BN: Right now, there’s such a huge demand from Africans across the continent for originally culturally edifying African content. And a lot of people believe that the digital space has a great potential to fill this need, since more content is being created and produced for Africans by Africans. Have you found this to be the case?

MW (02:56): You know, it’s very interesting that we live in a time and place where content, as you said, can be really consumed on the go through social media or digital platforms. So yes, there is a rise or need for African content. But at the same time, the structures that are within this industry, especially in the African continent, don’t really support the volume required for people to watch. Yes, we’ve seen the rise of Netflix, in this case, or we see the rise of Amazon and other platforms creating content for these different markets. There’s still a gap in the market when you have these conversations with different people. And let me give an example of Black Panther. For Black Panther, most people saw that it was an example of what Africa can be. And it is a template of what African content can be. But ultimately, Black Panther, from my perspective, was a film created for an international market. It didn’t necessarily portray Africa from an African perspective.

I think the irony between the yes, there’s a race for content for the African market, yet at the same time, the people who are purchasing and distributing this content are still skewed to a Western lens. And so it’s an ongoing conversation that as content producers are really trying to figure out, how do we just still continue creating content for ourselves? Areas like podcasting, and the rise of YouTube creators, is just giving us a space where we can express ourselves freely and without any limitations. it’s an ironic place to be in where, yes, there’s a need for it. But yes, there are limitations still in the way.

BN: You actually took my next question right out of my mouth. And, you know, you briefly touched on, you know, these barriers. So in terms of you’ve spoken about structures, not supporting the volumes and the consumption, and also just the audience. So how do you think this can be solved?

MW (05:26): Well, Brenda such a deep question. Well, for one, one step that we can do, as the content creators, or creators in this space, is just own our stories own the content that we create. Instead of waiting for someone to give us permission to create these stories, just go out there and create whatever you feel is necessary or needed for the market. But at the same time, I do understand that bills need to be paid. You could be a YouTube creator, and you’ve started your vlogging, but you’re not getting paid for what you’re doing. You’re caught up in a catch 22 – “What do I do, I’m passionate about creating this content, but at the same time, I’m not paying my bills”. This is another step that we can take where the industry now creates opportunities for YouTube creators, where they can support these small brands, not necessarily supporting bigger brands but support micro influencers and give them the opportunity to continue sharing their stories. But on the flip side of that, you know, as creatives, we are so passionate about what we do, that we forget that it needs to pay.

For a creative out there, figure out what are your strengths? And what are your weaknesses and try and find someone who can complement your strengths and weaknesses and create a business model that can support your creative work. If you are say, let me give an example, a documentary filmmaker, yes, you create independent films of independent documentaries. But what are you going to do in the meantime, so that your bills are paid? Create an outfit where you are professionally structured as a creative, and you can approach now, corporates or organizations that can support your documentary work. In our industry, we call that commissioned work. Look for avenues where you can get commissioned work, but at the same time you are pursuing your passions and your interest. Because as creatives, we’ve got to make sure that we get our money’s worth. Another way that we can create structures, is creating policies are now at the national level where these policies support the industry. For example, South Africa has policies where international production companies can come in and get tax rebates or they can get, I don’t use the word discounts, but they can get a discounted rate for let’s say, film permits or other necessities for their productions. I think the African continent just needs to create policies where you just create a conducive environment for these filmmakers for the creatives, so that they can benefit from their work and they can benefit from a growing industry.

BN: Yeah. And you touched on this briefly talking about social media. How do you find that these rapid advances in technology are changing the way content is created, marketed and consumed?

MW (09:01): Where we are all learning as we go, and the algorithm – I think  that’s the one thing and when it’s just, you know, crying about the algorithm, why is it working against us. But I just wanted to let people know, ignore the algorithm. And social media is a tool that can be used to push your content and push whatever you are doing. The one thing that cannot be ignored when it comes to social media and creating content. How are you consistent, you know, posting once in a blue moon won’t get your brand noticed or it won’t get your content viewed to the people that you’re hoping for it to be viewed. So how are you being consistent? And with this content that you’re creating? Why are you doing it? We can get so caught up with these trends and hype. But at the same time, you don’t to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. So for whoever’s listening and for whatever brand is trying to create a larger presence in the social media space, why are you creating the content? Yes, you want to target a youthful market. Why do you want to target it? Is it because you want to create impact? Is it because we want to create an opportunity for them to understand more about your brand that they’ve can apply into their lives? Whatever the case may be, I think the intentionality needs to be very key in whatever we’re doing in this social media space. Yes, the changes are happening quickly. And sometimes you can’t even keep up. But at the same time, we just need to see them as tools and see what we can use to benefit our brands to benefit the content that we’re putting out there.

BN: So, switching gears a little, I wanted to talk about COVID-19. And just the impact that this pandemic has had on businesses globally. Diid the pandemic have any sort of effect on the way you’re approaching work, and also on consumption patterns?

MW (11:16): It’s so interesting, before the pandemic, many people didn’t understand digital content or digital platforms. Yes, they did, but not necessarily. When COVID-19 happened, everyone had to be indoors and basically watched whatever was there – whatever your Netflix was providing, whatever YouTube was providing. For us in the industry, we began to realize that people were now becoming very intentional about what they were watching or viewing or consuming. The content producers couldn’t control their audience choices anymore, because now the audiences are at home, they’re spending more time indoors, and they want to make their personal space more intimate to help them to not necessarily ignore, but to block out the chaos that was happening during COVID-19. 

We that we saw a rise in the consumption of digital content. Also, for us as a business, we noted organizations understanding the necessity of them having a presence on social media or a presence on digital platforms. For us as a business, it was a plus. COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise. Because finally, we saw organizations reaching out to us and saying we want documentaries or animations produced so that our brands could have a greater presence in the social media space. It’s an interesting time to be in because people are seeing the necessity of social media, digital content and the use of smart devices. I look forward to what the future would hold. But right now, I think there’s such endless opportunities with digital media, and the use of Internet, especially in the African continent, where people are using their mobile phones more. Now, just want to give an example where we did a campaign for Africa Union, they reached out to us and they said they wanted animation to share the right information about COVID-19. Once we produced those videos, they asked us to do a social media campaign. So we used Facebook. And with that, we saw the importance of mobile devices and the use of Internet, where we did our campaign for Uganda and Rwanda. And with that, I think in Uganda, we reached over 19,000 people and Rwanda about 16,000 people, it just shows the importance of mobile devices and social media.

BN: Yeah, I think I saw that campaign on your website. It’s so impressive.

MW (14:05): Thank you.

BN: So Muthoni just to wind up, I wanted you to tell the audience a little bit about your podcast Moments with Nderru and how people can find you.

MW (14:16): Let me tell you, this podcast came to life with the first lockdown March 2020. And just sitting at home and we’re all caught up in our pity parties, you know, why is this happening to us? And I told myself Muthoni, you are a voiceover artist by profession. I used to do the voiceovers. And I was wondering, why aren’t I using my voice? And in the times that we’re in, people really need hope. People need inspiration. People need to be encouraged. And with that, I just told myself, you know what, let’s just dive into the deep end and record the first episode where my first season was just me sharing my thoughts, and letting people know that we’re in this together this pandemic, it will eventually pass. And right now, I kicked off season five. And you can find me on Instagram momentswithnderru. Or you can come to my website and join the community, which is

BN: You know, I was saying this to you right before we began that I had no idea that you had a full time, nine to five because I really love your podcast, I actually thought that this is what you do. So obviously, I just want to, you know, encourage you on the path, your guests are all very inspiring. I’d also encourage whoever’s listening in to go check out Muthoni’s podcast. It’s really amazing. It’s very uplifting. And with that, I’d like to thank you Muthoni for making the time and coming on to the podcast. I really appreciate it.

MW 16:04: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

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