"Queen Sono" is "a kaleidoscope of African art expression," said Dorothy Ghettuba, director of International Originals for Africa at Netflix. "It shows an African aesthetic on screen that the rest of the world has never seen … exploring the origins of contemporary trends with African eyes and the wealth of ideas this vast continent has to offer."
The main character is "an African heroine at the time," says Kagiso Lediga, the South African creator of the series.
The series is said to be a pan-African thriller that is an entertaining and intelligent political drama, Lediga says.
"If it speaks to all Africans, it speaks to the world," he says. "These people and stories have always been there, but have never been considered viable by a global audience."
Netflix has also purchased high-quality "Nollywood" films (Nigerians), including "Lionheart" and "Chief Daddy". According to Papavassilopoulos, Nollywood films are usually cheap, but Netflix is ready to spend money on "top-notch drama" with "export potential".
The market remains largely undeveloped due to the "low penetration with high quality content services", according to Papavassilopoulos.
"Even though there is a global demand for Hollywood content, people always want to see local stars and local products," added Murray. "You need to update your content regularly to keep subscribers and attract new subscribers."
However, the range of appealing content only goes so far – the "real battleground" is customer accessibility, says Papavassilopoulos, who notes that only around 40 percent of households in sub-Saharan Africa have a TV.
One obstacle to streaming services is the low broadband penetration in Africa, which according to the World Bank averaged only 25 percent in 2018.
To reduce data costs, Netflix has launched a mobile tool that allows users to control their data usage and reduce usage by downloading content for offline viewing.
Local partnerships are also being established to facilitate digital payments in countries where this is unusual. Customers with South African telecommunications providers Telkom and Vodacom can add their subscriptions to existing bills.
According to Papavassilopoulos, Netflix could eventually cut subscription fees and introduce pure cell phone deals, which has already happened in India. This makes the service more affordable and is suitable for countries in sub-Saharan Africa where mobile communications are the only infrastructure available for display.
Netflix has to stand out from its competitors in the region.
African competitors include the South African company Showmax, which offers simple digital payments through a local partner and package deals with a domestic satellite service that customers can use to save money.
The Nigerian company IrokoTV has brand kiosks where viewers can download films to their cell phones and watch them later. This saves data costs and hires local sellers who can reach customers in a way that Netflix doesn't offer.
In the long term, it remains to be seen how Netflix will hold its own against its American rivals on the continent. In November, Apple TV + launched in 12 African countries, including South Africa, Uganda, Mozambique, Ghana, Niger and Zimbabwe. Netflix has been available in all 54 African countries since 2016. Amazon Prime is not yet active in Africa and Disney Plus has no official launch date.
It will take some time until all components are available in the region. If so, Netflix hopes to dominate.