Ghana’s Qisimah makes waves with radio content monitoring

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When Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) managing director Aaron Fu spoke at the recent opening of the company’s new incubator in Cape Town, there was MEST-incubated startup he took special care to namecheck.

That startup was Qisimah, founded by South African Sakhile Xulu and Ghanaian pair Kofi Aboagye-Akyea and Solomon Appier-Sign after they met during the MEST entrepreneurship training programme in Accra.

Qisimah is a radio content monitoring platform that provides key stakeholders in the music industry with real-time data in regards to their music. It tracks who is playing an artist’s songs and where this is happening, allowing agencies to effectively collect royalties on behalf of their members and musicians to tell where their music is trending geographically.

It also has wider applications, Xulu told Disrupt Africa.

“Music award schemes are able to award nominees according to real-time data, giving them credibility. Research institutions are able to truly understand how music is consumed by the masses, by understanding which genres are trending in different regions of the world,” he said.

“Music executives are able to discover new talent by knowing which musicians are trending in different parts of the world. In addition to music licensed under traditional copyright, artists using Creative Commons licensing are able to track use of their content. This gives them the opportunity to develop relevant business models. Last but certainly not least, it helps government enforce broadcast related legislation and regulations.”

This is quite some impact. Launched earlier this year, Qisimah was built at MEST as a result of the founders having come across the problem of extracting data from radio in the past while working in media-related industries.

“Over the past 20 years we have seen the internet surpass traditional mediums of communications like television and radio to become the dominant medium of communication globally in regards to revenue generation,” Xulu said.

“Mainly because on the internet the impact of a media campaign can be measured, you can tell how many people have seen and engaged with a particular campaign, and more importantly where they are from. Thus as a team we saw radio as an undervalued asset in comparison to the internet in regards to the collection of data that can possibly equip decision makers with actionable information to make better decisions.”

The motivation behind creating Qisimah, he said, was to debunk the myth that radio was dying.

“We wanted to show its commercial importance to organisations and the world, especially in developing economies where the cost of internet is high, making traditional media like the radio an integral means of communicating to the masses,” he said.

The response has been positive. Qisimah has raised funding, and was recently named one if the winners at the Global World Summit.

“The uptake has been very promising so far,” said Xulu. “We are in talks with various organisations across the continent that will allow Qisimah to operate in various markets soon. We will be announcing very important partnerships soon that will help us scale effectively to reach our target audiences.”

The countries at the top of the list include Xulu’s native South Africa, as well as Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Angola, Uganda, Rwanda, Senegal, Cameroon, Burundi and Liberia.

“Africa is a young continent when it comes to a culture of purchasing software. Organisations have not come to the realisation of the need to purchase software to help them run efficiently and effectively when it comes to decision making,” Xulu said when questioned on the challenges associated with getting Qisimah off the ground.  

“Our major challenge is pricing, how to price the product in a market that has no historical nature of purchasing software, which means we need to price smartly so that we do not scare the market away. We are playing with various things around with various pricing models, but in the end the market will determine the direction we need to take.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent’s most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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