Do you remember that episode of Have Faith in season 1 where Faith Nketsi was visiting someone ko kasi and was surprised that the kids there ran to her and knew who she was? Although I screamed and cringed at her, "I didn't think they would know me, I didn't even know they had phones", I found it so interesting because in reality Nketsi (also known as Queen Twerk) became famous through Instagram, unlike mainstream public figures we see on television first.
The reason she wasn't expecting kids from the township to know who she was, was because of the hurdle to internet access in South Africa – yes, even in 2021.
But even in the struggle for access, South Africa has still found a way to thrive in the age of social media and influence. I often think back to those career days they'd host in high school where a whole bunch of universities and guidance counsellors would tell you what it takes and why you should explore a career in medicine, finance or the arts.
Although it wasn't that long ago, it's crazy to think that content creation or being a content creator solely on social media wasn't an option back then.
Post Match Interview: First Date pic.twitter.com/4jRjb3hVDJ— Kooks (@Kookie_Kuhle) September 8, 2021
If you wanted to be in the arts or the entertainment industry the only avenue was radio, television or print – which have their own politics around representation. Remember the #OpenUpTheIndustry conversation which was initiated by Phumlani Kango in 2016?
The public was given some opportunities with the rise of national online searches like the MTV VJ Search, which launched the careers of talents like Nomuzi Mabena and Nomzamo Mbatha (who was actually discovered by The Bomb Shelter from being seen on TV in the competition, even though she didn't win), visibility proved to be one of the biggest keys to the industry.
don’t know why I thought of this 😂😂😂😂 it’s honestly giving pic.twitter.com/4EiDkpXeec— neighborhoodbrokeboy (@mfundoradebe_) September 27, 2021
A few years later, being seen and heard has not only created a blueprint for many trying to get into the television space but it has formed an industry of its own, which makes sense as to why DStv would launch its own internet, partnering with individuals who got their big break from the internet.
George 'Okay Wasabi' Mnguni started out releasing shorts skits on Twitter, which we would look forward to (like our favourite television show) on Thursday nights; Khanyisa Madubula gave us relatable characters based on South African public services; Kuhle Sonkosi narrates daily events as a sports broadcaster; and Vuyelwa Halana is our fave 'Dabs' kuTwitter. They are among individuals who are carrying South Africa's online content creation on their backs and were announced as DStv Internet's ambassadors.
"When I started, we didn't have internet at home so I had to buy data and I was going through the most but there was something that I saw that the internet saw in me as well," says Madubula. "The hardest thing is starting something when you don't have an example of people around you doing it. It feels so far-fetched."
We've been seeing the possibilities overseas, just a few weeks ago for the first time in history many content creators were guests at the Met Gala. It reminds us that the same way we need more dark-skinned young girls in lead roles on television for representation, is the same way we need to see the success and possibilities that becoming an online content creator in South Africa has.
The product will not only give access to these creators to put out more work online, but it will also give internet access to all at affordable packages – meaning everyone will get to see and be part of the age of content creation.
"The internet has democratised how talent is discovered – it takes your backroom talent and puts it out there. You don't have to rely on who you know or connections. You have great content, put it on the internet and make a career out of it," says MultiChoice CEO Nyiko Shiburi.