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YouTube’s first-in-Africa creator’s conference, a pop-up held towards the end of last year at AMPD Studios in Johannesburg, was successfully curated and facilitated by HaveYouHeard, the communication agency specialising in bringing brands to the centre of culture thereby exerting considerable influence on the audience and its behaviour.

Aimed at South Africa’s biggest online stars – such as Loyiso Gola, Robert Murawa, J’Something and Kwesta – as well as aspiring Youtubers from around the country, the pop-up was the first time the world’s leading video platform has hosted a fully immersive creator’s conference on the continent.

It’s intention, according to Dayo Olopade who leads YouTube’s content partnerships on the continent, was to give content creators the opportunity to learn, in a face-to-face situation, about how YouTube works and its future plans for the channel in Africa. One of the key sessions was called ‘Ask me Anything’, a robust and open discussion with the YouTube heads in the studio.

“YouTube is a largely unexplored opportunity in Africa for creators and brands,” said Olopade. “But that is changing very quickly. For example, in South Africa two years ago, there were only 30 channels with 100 000 plus subscribers; today there’s 72. This will grow as people find the platform, find the tools to make their content successful and then grow their audience.”

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Fueling this growth, she said, is an incredible, very human demand for information; and YouTube is a critical outlet for this information.

“YouTube’s mission is to give everyone a voice, and we feel there is a particular urgency and relevance to that voice in Africa where, for too long, people have not been able to be at the centre of something. YouTube gives people the opportunity to tell their story, and I think it really important that YouTube empowers these people to do so,” she said.

Chris Park-Kennedy who is YouTube’s Partner Technology Manager and works with media companies to help them with their effort to integrate with YouTube, added that the main challenge facing the channel in South Africa is the cost of data.

“84% of people in South Africa access YouTube, but at an incredibly high cost because of the cost of data. We’re trying to reduce that cost by, for example, partnering with telcos to offer bundles giving access to YouTube.

“What is incredibly exciting, however, is the relative newness of the channel. There’s a tremendous enthusiasm from brands and content creators to engage with it and, in the case of the content creators, to monetise the content they create. This two-day pop-up went, I believe, a long way to explaining how both brands and content creators can achieve their objectives.”

AMPD Studios in Newtown, Johannesburg, is a bespoke music hub created by Old Mutual to engage with musicians, singers and aspiring artists. The AMPD programme, co-created by HaveYouHeard, brings Old Mutual to the centre of the local music scene. This allows the financial services brand to play a vital role in enabling, amplifying and empowering Africa’s young talent, while achieving its commercial objectives.