Photo credit: Afrostream.tv

Tonjé Bakang has seen the potential of film to bring communities around the world together. “When I was a child, I had access to books about great African men. I had easy access to African-American films. I had role models, and it changed me, it uplifted me.”

In 2014, he founded the French startup Afrostream – an online video streaming service for African and African-American themed content – to bring that potential to a worldwide audience.

Today Afrostream provides access to content that many Africans and members of the African diaspora have never had.

“My goal is not to save the world,” emphasizes Bakang, “but to change how black people see other black people, and to help change the way the world interacts with black people. If I understand you better, I’m not going to be afraid of you anymore, and we can do business together.”

Afrostream is an offering unique to the digital age. Bakang points out that, without reliable access to the Internet, his business model could not succeed.

“The Internet is key for us. Before that, the big networks were saying we cannot put more diversity on TV, because we need to address the whole country.”

The advent of streaming technology has significantly changed how people consume television and film. The Internet permits Afrostream to be both global and local.

“You get to be global but also really personal. Everyone can watch what they want, and we can deliver easy access to African content, American content, Caribbean content.”

While the company delivers content to audiences around the world, its main consumer market remains France.

“The Internet is everywhere and people have smartphones,” he observes of his home country, which are two important requirements for Afrostream to succeed.

Afrostream has developed partnerships around the world to extend the reach of studios to new markets.

“For the American studios, I say ‘let me open a new market for you. Let me help you get your content in front of new audiences.’  If Afrostream becomes a huge success, it’s a new distribution channel for them.”

The startup also partners with African studios to extend their reach. Afrostream delivers content from Nigeria’s Nollywood, which produces more movies annually than the United States and generates annual revenue of $10 billion, to new audiences in Europe, America, and Brazil.

Afrostream plans on co-producing content with these African producers, using partnerships with distribution companies such as France’s TF1 to bring more topical content with strong African influences to a worldwide market.

“There’s a global issue around the representation of black people. As a minority in France, to be able to watch a show like Empire with powerful black people, to have a good representation of our community, makes us better.”