CNN’s Eleni Giokos recently sat down with Alex Okosi, YouTube Managing Director for Emerging Markets Europe, Middle East and Africa, to talk about the opportunities he sees in the future for African creatives.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Eleni Giokos: How important is the African market for YouTube?
Alex Okosi: It’s pretty important that I’m here. It’s important that YouTube actually invests, and it invests in Africa. We launched YouTube Music in Nigeria. We have an amazing cross-functional team of people, across YouTube and Google, who are really focused on how we are growing in Africa and making sure that we continue to nurture the talent that we have.
EG: How do you see yourself as YouTube compared to other platforms that are really growing in popularity?
AO: At the end of the day [it] it’s good to have competition, right? I think it offers diversity for users and also for creators. I think the power of YouTube, what it can do, we are able to connect people. We are able to inspire people. We are able to educate people. If you see what has happened during this time that we are living in – this incredible pandemic – more and more people have been looking to YouTube for a variety of different things.
EG: I mean the way the African continent is represented on YouTube. Do you feel that there is still work to be done? Where are we at right now and where do you want to take this?
AO: We have some amazing creators on the platform from Africa. The reality is that the platform continues to grow on the continent, that we have a whole bunch of users who also want to share content on a platform. And I think as we go ahead and continue to optimize the platform and data prices keep going down for people to come online and create, I think you’re going to see more and more people doing really their full potential on the platform. So for us, this is really how do we make sure that we continue to work with our partners, creators and artists to help nurture and provide them with a safe and powerful platform for them to develop their impact?
EG: What kind of role do you think the creative industry could have on the continent, in terms of percentage? I mean, it’s pretty much untapped from what I hear. We don’t have the research, right? But we know we’re good at it.
AO: No, the research is not there. What I can tell you is that the opportunity is great. I still think there is a huge gap in terms of what we can do in the creative space. Take a look at what we’ve been able to accomplish on the music side. You know, 15 years ago African music was not something the world knew about. The platform was created, and now on YouTube people can immediately access and enjoy African music.
EG: During the pandemic, we saw African stars rise. Whether it’s Kenya and Nigeria, from comedians and chefs to anything you can think of, we really shine during this time. What’s the most exciting space for you right now?
AO: I think the exciting space for us is really across all of these genres. There is a diversity of creations in all the different spaces that really, really shine on the platform. The reality is that now more than ever, when people aren’t able to go out and do more, they’re looking for spaces that allow them to be in the know about what’s going on. It has been a difficult time. And what we’ve also tried to do during this time is make sure that we focus on raising authoritative voices.