In a world where traditional advertising methods have made way for new creator-led channels, brands are still asking how they can meaningfully connect with audiences. More than ever before, audio platforms are giving voice to a new generation, allowing African storytellers in particular the opportunity to share their own narratives and be represented on a global stage. This overlap presents an exciting space for brands, creators and listeners in the audio landscape.

Developing a brand voice – literally

Africa is a young continent, populated by more than 400 million people aged between 15 and 35. The UN estimates that about 25% of the world’s population will live in Africa by 2050. Engaging with young people needs to be at the forefront of strategies for brands in Africa – and understanding what this audience is looking for is the first step.

Millennials and Gen Z don’t engage with brands the same way previous generations did. Relatability and trust between consumers and the brands they interact with are becoming increasingly valuable – so much so that “authenticity” was chosen as Merriam-Webster’s word of 2023.

So how do you develop trust? Music and sound make us feel and move instinctually; our brains and bodies are hardwired to respond to audio. According to AdAge, “Audio drives deeper attention and immersion than any other media channel, including video, TV and social media.” And 70% of Gen Z like it when brands have their own recognisable sound, according to Amp Branding.

Podcasting is a form of audio branding that gives brands an opportunity to touch consumers’ lives in new ways. Compelling, relatable and useful content can foster deep human connection. The opportunities for this kind of storytelling are endless.

Creating content in local languages is another powerful way that people and brands can add value to communities, while still increasing their influence. In fact, a BBC study shows that podcasts grow brand awareness by 89%. Podcasts can also help brands establish themselves as thought leaders who have expertise on topics that their listeners value. This space in the audio landscape in Africa is still wide open for brands to leverage.

Case studies: Taking brands to the airwaves

Mediclinic Southern Africa, a brand that operates a number of acute private-care hospitals with a focus on patient-centred care, has seen this potential. Since many health podcasts are produced in the USA or UK, there is a need for locally relevant and contextual health information from experts you can trust.

Mediclinic works with South African agency 2Stories to bring medical expertise to the airwaves on The Health Wrap Podcast. Featuring experienced and well-regarded healthcare professionals as guests, combined with true-life patient stories, these themed podcast series truly harness the power of audio.

With thousands of listeners tuning in from South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique, it’s clear that The Health Wrap Podcast is meeting a need. The most popular episode, entitled “Postpartum: What should my partner’s role be now that we have a baby?”, explores culture-specific nuances alongside medical and psychological content – rich, relevant content that is simply not available in a broader international context.

Another example is UNICEF, which is planning to use podcasting as a way to spread awareness. The ABCs of SBC is a podcast focused on Social and Behaviour Change (SBC), and seeing how it can move the needle forward in the battle for gender equality, climate action and other complex challenges.

Through a series of compelling interviews with experts from around the globe, audiences will gain valuable insights, drawing from the knowledge, experience and learnings shared by the interviewees. Here, they would look at the limits and possibilities of SBC through the lens of various global issues, with the aim of achieving better outcomes for children across the globe. The podcast will introduce the possibilities of SBC in various settings to enrich the listener without too much complexity.

Growing an engaged community

The next step for branded podcasts is reaching the right listeners. Building a thriving podcast community is dependent on understanding your target audience and aligning your content with their needs. This is key in shaping content that is considered as both relatable and trustworthy. When a listener trusts a brand they are more likely to engage with them – a pivotal part of fostering community.

Leveraging social media to host online events and discussions is a highly effective way of keeping your community engaged. Encouraging feedback through the use of polls and Q&As makes your audience feel valued and heard. These responses can then be used to guide content creation, enhancing a brand’s authenticity and relevance, and deepening the listener’s connection with the podcast. This strategy lends a sense of ownership and involvement.

Finally, consistency is paramount in podcasting. A regular schedule for releasing episodes and hosting feedback sessions establishes a routine for your audience, facilitating the natural growth of your podcast community.

Hosting and distribution

A hosting platform serves as an online space where podcast elements like audio files, artwork and notes are stored. The process of distribution involves sharing your podcast across various directories by submitting your RSS feed. As you release a new episode through your hosting platform, it seamlessly synchronises with other directories, ensuring that your audience stays informed across all platforms.

The various hosting platforms have distinct features and advantages, with a range of pricing options. Some, like Afripods, are free, while others involve monthly expenses, contingent upon factors such as storage capacity and download requirements.

The numbers in Africa

According to the latest research from 2022, monthly podcast listening more than doubled in the major metropolitan commercial population in South Africa over the previous two years. This is according to The Infinite Dial 2022 South Africa conducted by Edison Research, which also revealed that 90% of this population owns a smartphone. Since weekly podcast listeners consume an average of four episodes per week, there is a wealth of airtime to tap into.

Figures for Africa are looking to grow in a similar fashion. Across the continent, the average listener is between 24 and 30 years old, and more women than men listen to podcasts. The most popular platform is Spotify. This is according to a 2022 research report by Africa Podfest and Baraza Media Lab. Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa are the three largest podcast markets on the continent, with internet usage in those countries growing, too: 59% of South Africans, 42% of Nigerians and 39% of Kenyans own a smartphone. (For more insights on audio on the continent, TAP Magazine’s special issue 18, a collaboration with Afripods, has more than 80 contributors across 18 African countries and covers everything you need to know on the state of podcasting in Africa.)

Africa has the platforms, the technology, and, most importantly, the stories and storytellers. We have brave brands who are ready to try new ways to amplify their message and their mission. The future is bright for content that is authentic, meets listeners’ needs, builds trust and brings brands closer to the people they serve.

Afripods is a free pan-African podcast hosting platform based in Nairobi, Kenya, building the largest library of African audio stories on the planet. We are the technical infrastructure of digital storytelling and have created an advertising funnel for audio-on-demand content with the ability to categorise content in more than 70 languages across 50-plus countries. Afripods digitally shares the untold stories from Africa and creates the opportunity for podcasters to take up space, capture opportunities and get paid for work they love to do.

2Stories is a content-led marketing agency based in Cape Town, South Africa. In 2023, 2Stories merged with creative audio agency The Stellar Effect to create the 2Stories audio division, producing more than 60 branded podcast episodes for a variety of local and international brands in that year.