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Netflix’s first African series, Queen Sono, premieres

A secret agent from South Africa is searching for the truth about her mother’s murder while also protecting her country from dark forces. That, in a nutshell, is the plot of “Queen Sono,” Netflix’s first original African series is scheduled for release on February 28.

And if the US streaming service is to be believed “Queen Sono” is just the beginning.

“This is exactly what we’re going for,” Netflix told SAT in a written statement. “African thrillers, entertaining and smart political dramas.”

Netflix says it wants to tell local stories with a global appeal. 

Will Netflix breathe new life into African films?

Melissa Adeyemo, a Nigerian-American producer who founded Ominira Studios in New York, has been in Africa’s film market for years. Her latest movie just wrapped up production in Lagos.

The fact that Netflix has come to discover the potential of the African continent makes sense to her. She says there’s a huge appetite and a huge demand for stories, especially in Nigeria. Point in case: the emergence of the “Nollywood” film industry in Nigeria.

Adeyemo thinks the new series from South Africa will help generate more interest for African stories and could really open the door to the international market for African actors, screen writers and directors.

Nigerian filmmaker Chuku Esiri agrees. Esiri, alongside his twin brother Arie, recently directed the film “Eyimofe” which premiered at the Berlinale in Germany.

“Obviously it’s always great when massive institutions like Netflix are interested in working in Africa and try to get those stories and empower creative individuals,” Esiri told DW.

“I think it’s a great start and I hope it spreads from South Africa to the other countries on the continent.”

Netflix has fewer subscribers in Africa

Netflix does in fact have a few more African productions slated for release. In April it will premiere “Mama K’s Team 4,” an animated film about the lives of four girls from Zambia set in the future. The film marks Netflix’s first ever animated film from Africa.

And while it continues production on a teen drama dubbed “Blood & Water,” Netflix is also working on getting the rights on top notch Nollywood films like “Lionheart” and “Chief Daddy.”

But there’s a catch. According to Netflix’s figures, the streaming provider has over 167 million subscribers worldwide, and while it hasn’t released its figures on the number of African subscribers, analysts from Digital TV Research in London estimate that there are fewer than 1.5 million in sub-Saharan Africa, and most of them are South African.

To put this into context, Netflix wants 5 million subscribers on the African continent by 2025. 

Analysts predict that the market for streaming in sub-Saharan Africa will surpass $1 billion by 2024. By way of comparison, that same market – including internet TV and on-demand viewing – was worth some $223 million in 2018.

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