Johan Nel is Unlocking Access to the African Content

Johan Nel is Unlocking Access to the African Content


Africa’s economy is growing faster than any other continent, according to the African Development Bank, which recently reported that one-third of Africa’s countries have GDP growth rates of more than 6%.

The continent’s middle class is growing rapidly too — around 350 million Africans now earn between $2 and $20 a day.

Johan Nel believes that access to information is a critical part of the development of this continent.

“Information leads to more knowledge, transparency, self-education and improvement,” he says.

Nel has applied his deep-seated love for Africa to creating a business that helps communities across the continent by making it easy for them to create and share content, and access information.

It all started when he was researching a family holiday to Namibia and realised that there was a huge gap for credible, up-to-date local content.

“I’ve always been in the media industry, but I discovered my passion when I got into digital,” Nel says.

“It’s an industry that has enabled me to combine my interests in media and in Africa. We have a simple mission — to deliver content that is local and relevant to African consumers.”

When Nel first launched Umuntu Media, the company had journalists located in several different regions, but this proved to be too costly.

“The reality is that communication is taking place around us all the time. Now we simply aggregate content from the web and deliver it to consumers through nine ‘iPortals’, content portals that syndicate up-to-the-minute local and international news, lifestyle content and a huge database of restaurant and accommodation listings. We liken the technology to a local version of Flipboard.

“Rather than being a huge media organisation, we are a small team of ten, including developers. What’s key is that we are a publisher that owns our own proprietary technology platform. We’re getting 60 million page impressions in 20 countries, with content being collected from more than 6 500 local journalists.”

New opportunities

Nel is a believer in the gospel of ‘Africa rising’, and sees the continent as one full of hope and opportunity — the one to watch.

He’s building a new media empire based on his interest in people and communities, and his desire to help better their lives by giving them access to information that people in developed countries have taken for granted for decades.

Don’t You Dare Give Up On Your Dream. Advice from Thabang Molefi.

Monique Verduyn
Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.