Tonjé Bakang is the founder of Afrostream, a start-up launched in 2015 whose aim is to become a top contender in the African audiovisual content market.
Leaders League. How was the idea of Afrostream born?
Tonjé Bakang. Afrostream was born from observing the different ways videos are consumed. Today, those under the age of 35 mainly watch videos through their smartphones, computers and tablets. Fewer people wait for a special time of the day to watch the content that interests them and have become “program directors” of their own. Audiences looking for quality content coming from Africa or portraying Africans have limited options and regarding the legal offer, the choice was almost inexistent until the arrival of our Afrostream service. Afrostream understands both consumers’ habits and responds to a demand for more African content.
Leaders League. Why does your service specifically target African content?
T.B. I am an entrepreneur, someone who analyses consumer behavior with the aim of building value and my philosophy is to look on the bright side: the market is there and millions of people want to discover and enjoy this content. My desire is to meet these needs.
Afrostream has no particular mission statement. Entrepreneurship is being able to envisage the future while still being anchored in the present. You have an idea, you start imagining what you will create, but you have to convince other people to believe in you and most of the time, they think you are crazy or a dreamer. This is the biggest struggle. People don’t realize how tough being an entrepreneur is.
Leaders League. You divide your time between Paris, Nantes and the United States. In your eyes, is Afrostream an African company or an international company?
T.B. Afrostream is an international company. I would say that being international is in our DNA. We have an international team (French and American) and we will soon be opening up a desk in francophone Africa.
Leaders League. In your opinion, is there a difference between African entrepreneurs and French or American entrepreneurs for example?
T.B. There is no major difference between entrepreneurs. It’s the ecosystem that is different. In the United States, we have found open people that are inclined to trust us and give us a chance, whereas in France, we encountered many challenges at the beginning in gaining investors’ trust. It was only after we went to the United States that French investors came on board.
Leaders League. Do you have any American investors?
T.B. Although there are a lot of funds in Africa, today there are no African investors in our capital. Although our company has a solid reputation, we haven’t been solicited by investors from the continent which is rather surprising. I imagine that entrepreneurs from Abidjan or Dakar, for example, also have a difficult time receiving financing.
Leaders League. Do you think that African investors understand the economic opportunities currently available in the digital world?
T.B. I think that it depends on each generation. In Africa, today, those who have financial means are not necessarily those who use new technology. They have trouble appreciating the impact that numerical services can have or at what point they can become big markets. International actors on the contrary understand the growing interest. Unfortunately, when African investors will finally take an interest in local start-ups, they risk becoming second-choice products in terms of financing.