MediaCity Mauritius: Developing the first integrated, international hub for the media and creative industries in Africa

How a media startup is opening a gateway to Africa by creating world-class infrastructure and technology for the creative industry.

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Najib Gouiaa, MediaCity Mauritius

The use of digital technologies and daily consumption of online content all over the world have surged since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic. This has created a new wave of digital revolution where people are increasingly relying on the internet in almost all spheres of life. Can Africa emerge from the pandemic as a significant player in this new revolution? Big international tech and media corporations have expressed renewed interest in the continent. Most notably, Twitter is establishing its African headquarters in Ghana, while Facebook (already in South Africa) is moving into Nigeria. These international interests in Africa have created a new excitement on the role of the continent in the global media and digital arena.

Thriving digital ecosystem

The growing digital ecosystem in Africa is important as a multiplier of the continent’s post-pandemic recovery and continued future growth. However, for Africa to benefit fully, it needs to generate its own digital content rather than relying on imports. The current figures show that 85% of news about Africa is produced outside the continent. This needs to change if Africa is going to promote its image and drive its own development agenda. And this is exactly what is happening with the recent launch of MediaCity Mauritius (MCM) project.   

“MediaCity Mauritius is a new integrated, international hub for the creative and media industries in Africa, seeking to fill the gap for international media companies and creative agencies looking to develop a presence on the African continent, whilst firmly embedding the African media industry into a globalized digital and media landscape. We recognize that a coordinated and purposeful response is needed to provide for the increasing demand for communication assets in the region – and this is exactly what we have set out to do,” Najib Gouiaa, the MCM Director tells IDG Connect, realizing that Covid-19 has also been a catalyst for digital transformation in the region which MCM is looking to build upon.

A gateway to Africa

MCM is a private initiative, funded by investors who believe in what it wants to achieve, and in the financial viability of the project. To achieve its objectives, the project is comprised of a digital hub with a focus on content creation and innovation, and a training campus, to facilitate learning and development. The former will cater to all the technical and industry needs, for example a state-of-the art Broadcast and Production center, with studios and recording facilities. The latter will be made up of the MediaCity School and a branch of a world-class university renowned for its media studies. The MCM infrastructure itself is situated in the centre of the smart city of Beau Plan, which means that sustainability and efficiency will run hand in hand with the project. 

“MCM is both a gateway to Africa in terms of its location, with easy access to the African market, as well as its technology infrastructure. It will be equipped with state-of-the-art technological infrastructure in the form of broadcasting equipment, hardware and software, as well as offering super-fast broadband connectivity to enable transfers of high-definition content and the ability to store large quantities of internationally accessible data on-site,” Gouiaa tells us. He adds that “Our African Media Campus, is a learning infrastructure project, in line with the [Mauritius] Government’s strategy to expand the [country’s] capacity to accommodate both local and international students. Its purpose is to host renowned schools and universities that deliver higher education in the media and creative industries.”

Skills in creative and digital content sector

With the MediaCity campus, the objective is to give students the skills, experience and qualifications to access career opportunities, not only in the media, but across every creative and digital content sector. Additionally, immersed in a professional media environment with access to the latest technology, students will have the opportunity to meet and speak to industry professionals and engage in work experience opportunities. However, Africa already has a robust business accelerating and incubating sector. We have many hubs that train, support, fund and mentor startups and business both locally and internationally. How is MediaCity School different?

“Africa is still playing catch-up with the rest of the world when it comes to media training - we need better training, and a more supportive environment,” Gouiaa says. “Without speaking for all accelerator models in the region, I think it is safe to say that MCM will make a different sort of mark on the continent. Our close industry relationships with key actors across the globe sets us apart so that we can operate on in a more globalized way, whilst, building and retaining talent in the region. A large portion of the project is centered around investing in our future digital and creative innovators. Our students will learn using the latest industry tools and techniques, not only developing a strong skillset through our technical infrastructure, but also through our vital network, including the links we are building with established universities.”

Government support and the Beau Plan Smart City

Both the Mauritian government and Mauritian Economic Board have formally support MCM’s vision to welcome digital actors, start-ups and new talent as part of Mauritius’ transition to a digital and knowledge-based economy. At MCM last meeting with CEO of the EDB, Mr Ken Poonoosamy, he confirmed the board’s commitment to give significant backing to MCM, as part of their support to the digital and creative sector in Mauritius, with the Director adding that they will be communicating with the board in the near future on the details of this support. Additionally, the project is partnering with the Beau Plan Smart City developer for technical infrastructure and a broadcasting entity in Europe called BCE, as Gouiaa tells us:

“We are incredibly lucky to be working with the Beau Plan Smart City developer, Novaterra, who is streamlining our master planning and urban development. BCE, on the other hand is a European leader in media services. Having them on board enables us to provide top level technical infrastructure, of the sort that is used by professionals around the world. The fact we have such strong partners behind us lends us credibility and is testament to how committed we are to making MCM a success. We have brought together a great team, that is diverse, multi-lingual, and multi-talented.”

Global and African appeal

As mentioned earlier, African Markets are of increasing interest to international companies operating in the media industry. Many of these companies are already established in most of the media cities in Europe and Asia, but they are also interested in establishing a presence in Africa. But MCM is not competing with other media cities, in fact, it’s complement the efforts.

“We want to be recognized as a leading global media city, such as the likes of Dubai, Seoul, or Salford in England. The difference with MCM is that we have identified a gap with huge demand in Africa and we want to be the main regional center realizing this creative and commercial potential in the region. Our localized operations maximize the assets Mauritius has to offer, which means that we are able to position ourselves as a bridge between Africa and the rest of the world, whilst also stimulating talent and the economy at a domestic and regional level,” Gouiaa explains.

MCM is open to everyone: from global media companies to international students, to African media professionals to Mauritian people. Its aim is to be accessible, inviting partnerships, collaboration and networking opportunities, whilst sharing the transfer of knowledge and skills, at all levels and across all geographies. With that being said, Africans in particular will benefit from having training facilities available to them in one centralised, integrated space in a way that they perhaps wouldn’t have had before. But what is the position of MCM on the integration of women who are largely left out when it comes to access to tech resources?

“It is no secret that women are unfortunately underrepresented in the technology sector, but it must be said that it is changing. The number of women who have become integrated as innovators of digital content production is increasing and this is something that MCM will work hard to address. We are currently assessing the best approach to ensure a more balanced representation of women across all facets of the project,” Gouiaa says.

Looking ahead

With regards to MCM timeline, MCM is prioritising their academic facilities. The Technology Media School will begin offering training on temporary premises in September 2022 to ensure that they are meeting the requirements of their future clients.

“Our short-term goals are to build, engage and connect. By that I mean to continue with our development plans to ensure that MCM is up and running in line with our timeframes, and to continue to spread the word about its arrival to the industry. In the long term, we want Mauritius to become the epicenter of the media industry in Africa as we build the highest quality and most sustainable infrastructure for the creation, development, trade, and distribution of media services for an international market. We see MCM becoming Africa’s leading media hub for content creation, digital production, global interaction, and local collaboration,” Gouiaa concludes.