Netflix is free in Kenya. In announcing the free plan, Netflix said that ‘At Netflix, we want everyone to be able to enjoy the suspense of Blood & Water, the romance of Bridgerton and the adventure of Army of the Dead.’

What streaming services offer as a sign of good faith is a free-month of service. That is meant to lure you into what they offer before you can make your mind on whether you want to continue enjoying the service.

Netflix’s offer for a free service is great and bold. But the devil is in the details. Free Netflix comes with several restrictions. You cannot watch the free plan on any Apple device. You cannot watch it on iMac, Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, Mac Mini, iPhone, or on iPad.

You cannot watch it on a desktop computer and you cannot watch it on your laptop. There is more. The total number of movies and TV series available to paying subscribers in Kenya is 4612. In the United States, that number jumps to 5879. Kenyans and USA citizens pay the same price.

The free version offered to Kenyans (only android phones) is a quarter of the entire catalogue offered to paying customers.

The treatment of African consumers by the western countries, especially by the United States companies is mind-boggling. There are an extraordinary amount of services that are cut off from African global citizens without any rationale behind it at all.

I bump into it everyday. Whether in entertainment or business. Give it to Netflix. They have tried to make amends. But one has to wonder why some western companies continue to ignore potential African clients who are willing to pay for services.

Take Apple for example. In 2018, Apple debuted its new careers website in which they said this: ‘Apple is open. We believe humanity is plural, not singular. The best way the world works is everybody in. Nobody out’. For someone hearing that, it makes Apple sound so inclusive. But as I said, the devil is in the details.

While Apple calls itself a ‘worldwide company’, the tech titan has no single official store in Africa except local resellers and repair shops that are mostly in South Africa. But the sad story of Apple and its relationship with a continent of 1.2 billion people does not end there.

Turn your attention to services offered by Apple. Recently, Apple has expanded its business. Known for a long time as the maker of the popular macbooks, iPads, iPods, iMacs, and iPhones, Apple has started competing in entertainment.

Apple now has Apple TV+, Apple News, Apple Music, Apple Fitness+, and iCloud. Apple does not offer these services to the African market (save for South Africa) except iCloud and Apple Music. But Apple says that ‘across Apple, we’ve strengthened our long-standing commitment to making our company more inclusive’. Apple says that everybody, wherever you are, belongs.

‘Apple is becoming a better reflection of the world we live in’. They say. Ohh well…Literally.

While this opinion might sound biased against Apple, the company is a leading example on how American and European companies continue to look at Africa as that forsaken place that demands no attention businesswise.

If you have an Amazon Prime Video subscription page the marketing language is inviting: Enjoy exclusive Amazon Originals as well as popular movies and TV shows. But it is a lie. Amazon Prime video will only offer a handful of movies.

Most of their catalogue is behind a geographical wall. ‘This title is not available in your location’ is the message that flashes on the screen at every attempt. While Amazon is willing to dedicate a fraction of their catalogue to African customers, there are a dozen streaming services that don’t offer services to the African market.

They include Disney+, Hulu, HBO, Peacock, Starz. And many others.

Let us understand where streaming services are coming from. Hollywood has ploughed millions of dollars into the shows and movies they make. Avengers:Endgame, for example, was made at a huge budget of USD 400 million. It is understandable why these movie and television studios enforce strict copyright laws so that they can maximise their profits.

To earn as much as possible, the studios sell copyright per country. It means that Netflix will  negotiate for  ‘Breaking Bad’ differently in the USA and Kenya. Or they might decide that the fees Shondaland’s is licensing Bridgeton in Tanzania is not worth it, Netflix will decide not to show the popular TV series in that country.

Fair enough. The problem is why Netflix or Amazon charge Americans and Kenyans the same subscription fees when Kenyans are obviously not getting the same catalogue as other countries? Shouldn’t there be a price depending on the size of the catalogue?

Why, for example, would Apple bundle every new iPad and  iPhone with Apple TV+, Apple Store, and Apple News while they know that this is (largely) bloatware on the African Market?  You might ask me to just delete it. But where is the inclusion they preach?

Google is a big company with over $100 billion generated in 2020 when Covid was ravaging businesses. You bet a huge chunk of that is generated in Africa where Youtube, Search Ads, and Google Workspace do just as well as other countries such as the UK, Canada, and the USA.

Yet Google has a largely successful Youtube Premium that it does not offer in Kenya and many African countries. Youtube Premium allows you to enjoy Youtube content ads free. I managed to have Youtube Premium when I travelled to Germany. When I arrived in Kenya, Google notified me that while I may be on Youtube Premium, I might still see ads.

And they were not done with me. Google cut off Youtube Originals from my Youtube account. I get that you don’t want me to enjoy Youtube Originals. But why would you introduce ads to an ads-free account simply because they have crossed the borders?

Daniel Ek started Spotify in 2006. And yet most Africans would be denied the services of the music-streaming juggernaut until early 2021 when Daniel Ek decided that it’s now time to take some of the African money.

Let’s be honest. Africa is no longer where it used to be a decade or so ago. Rod Wolfended, the EY (Building a Better Working World) Africa Markets says that ‘the big economic building blocks (in Africa) are now in place. Africans are the beneficiaries, but so are the next wave of investors, who will have an easier time developing new projects’.

Africa now boasts large and stable markets with ballooning middle classes. They have disposable income. I consider myself a lower middle class African. And yet I have lost count of the subscriptions that I pay monthly.

They include DSTV, Bein Sports, Adobe Creative CloudThe Athletic, Youtube Red, Netflix, Envato Elements, Apple Music, Spotify, iCloud +, Google Drive, Medium, Newyork Times, Hopin, Outline VPN, and Amazon Prime.

There should be no fear for Africa anymore.

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