Amazon has been quietly recruiting salespeople and engineers in Lagos, hinting at an expansion of its streaming and cloud computing businesses in Africa’s largest economy, Rest of World has learned. The company has also hired a major advertising agency to work on its first push for Prime Video subscribers in Nigeria, while also investing in production and licensing deals with local film and television studios.
The tech giant expanded its Prime Video streaming service to Nigeria in 2016, as part of a global rollout, and its Amazon Web Services (AWS) product has been used by many local businesses for several years now. However, the company does not have a physical presence in the country, or in much of sub-Saharan Africa outside of South Africa.
An Amazon spokesperson told Rest of World, “We have no changes to share with regards to the location of our teams or on expansion plans for other Amazon businesses.”
However, the company has made significant investments in Nigeria over the past year, including original production and exclusive license pacts with leading Nigerian filmmakers, including Anthill Studios and Inkblot Productions, producers of the box office hit The Wedding Party. This month Amazon announced it had hired the Nigerian ad agency stalwart Insight Publicis to spearhead a marketing campaign aimed at attracting subscribers to its platform. In April, it advertised three roles for its Nigeria Originals team based in London.
“We are investing in the region [and t]his is what the advertising campaigns represent,” Amazon said in a statement.
Africa has become an important growth area for streaming services, with Disney+, Netflix, Amazon, French streaming service Canal+, and South Africa’s Showmax all competing for subscribers. Amazon has not released viewing figures for Prime Video in Africa, but Digital TV Research, an analytics firm, estimates that the company has 600,000 subscribers in Africa. It also forecasts that Amazon Prime Video will add 1.5 million new subscribers, and Netflix will add 3 million, by 2027.
Amazon is also looking to expand its AWS cloud business in Nigeria. AWS, which has had roots in South Africa since around 2004, is the world’s largest cloud computing platform, and its services are already being used by companies across Africa. In Nigeria, AWS has become an increasingly widely used platform for many startups and large firms, despite not having an in-country data center or office.
But local startups still encounter payment difficulty because AWS fees are charged in dollars rather than naira, which is a challenge because of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s policies restricting dollar transactions in a bid to shore up the naira. A locally based AWS office could help overcome that hurdle.
Though analysts told Rest of World that the continent is still at an early stage of digital development, they also noted that the opportunity for big tech firms like Amazon to open up the market is especially promising. “As more Africans get on the internet and organizations continue to improve digitization efforts, the demand for digital services and infrastructure increases,” said Ayobami Omole, an analyst at Tellimer Research.
At press time, AWS was advertising for 10 roles based in Lagos over the previous two weeks, including entry-level engineers and senior sales managers for Nigerian clients. Amazon lists credit companies Carbon and Aella Credit as clients and published a case study about how AWS helped optimize the processes at Flutterwave, the unicorn payments startup. Now, it seems AWS is looking to bring more local startups into its fold by hiring dedicated account managers for startups in Nigeria. It is also hiring a sales manager to snap up enterprise clients, like banks and oil companies, which have typically preferred to keep data in-house.
Nigeria’s changing data protection regulations and rising demand for cloud services at businesses has driven a flurry of investments into data centers in Nigeria. A number of data centers have been set up on the Lagos coast. In March 2020, Actis, a U.K.-based private equity firm, invested $250 million in RackCentre, a Nigerian data center company focused on West Africa, and, in December 2021, Equinix paid $320 million for MainOne, a cloud infrastructure company and operator of West Africa’s first privately owned undersea fiber cable. Big tech companies, including Meta and Google, have supported large undersea cable projects, to increase internet services in Africa. AWS launched its first African data centers in Cape Town in 2020 and later announced it would hire 3,000 people in South Africa, bringing its total workforce in the country to 7,000.
“[After Amazon] launched a cloud data center in 2020, there have been talks about the company increasing its hyper-scale data center capacity in Africa. So I am not surprised that they are planning to set up an office to serve their customers in the region,” Omole said.