As COVID-19 ravaged the world, augmented reality grew in Nigeria. Two Nigerian extended reality companies speak to TechCabal about the current status and challenges facing the growth of extended reality on the continent.
One of the many impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Nigerian media industry is that online media consumption has skyrocketed. The rate at which people went to cinemas dropped significantly, costing the Nigerian cinema industry an estimated $116 million. Media consumers found other ways to entertain themselves, and streaming platforms like Netflix had a record year.
Before the pandemic, Nigeria’s digital media sector revenue grew from $732 million in 2018 to $806 million in 2020, a 7.49% increase driven by online subscription revenue. In 2023, the sector is expected to bring in around $900 million.
This adoption also shows her face in the Nigerian virtual and augmented reality space.
Extended Reality (XR) is the umbrella term for Virtual Reality (VR) – a digitally simulated immersive experience that reflects either the real world or an imaginary world – and Augmented Reality (AR) – the real-time integration of digital information with that of the user’s physical environment, similar to social media filters. The global virtual events market was valued at US$114.12 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 21.4% from 2022 to 2030.
The current uses of virtual and augmented reality in Nigeria can be traced back to Imisi3D, a Nigerian augmented reality creation laboratory, and its 2016 hackathon. The event, a first of its kind, showcased efforts by Nigerians using augmented reality to create solutions across a wide range of sectors from agriculture to e-commerce.
Nowadays, more and more Nigerian companies are integrating virtual reality technology into their business. Taeillo, a Nigerian furniture manufacturer, is one of them. Realizing that the pandemic would limit physical inspection of its furniture, the company decided to use augmented reality to showcase its products.
According to Solomon Akinsanya, director of marketing at Taeillo, the use of augmented reality has enabled the company to overcome geographic barriers that would have been unreachable without the use of augmented reality.
Drawing on his experience building Taeillo’s virtual showrooms with AR, former CTO Derrick Ikenga founded Euphoria Labs, a company focused on creating metaverse shopping experiences. After working with brands like Guinness, Bitnob, Vault Hill, Betking and Orange Culture, he told TechCabal that due to the abundance of scenarios I ordered and received, he decided to focus on fashion and live shopping. “Online shopping is broken,” he said.
Ikenga is confident that augmented reality will reduce this problem because people can experience products before they buy them. Ikenga wants an enhanced experience for online shoppers that is on par with visiting a physical store. He said, “With augmented reality, we’re able to create interactive shopping experiences that engage the customer and guide them to make the right shopping decisions.” According to Ikenga, this is to be expected given that online shoppers already want AR experiences and deal with social AR millions of times a day.
In comparison, experiential retailing in global e-commerce is slowly taking over the world, with global giants such as Nike and L’Oreal opening experiential stores in New York and Shanghai respectively. L’Oreal said its conversion rates tripled with the launch of its AR Store capabilities.
According to Ikenga, XR is still in its infancy in Africa. He believes Africa can benefit the most from AR/VR because “we can harness the power of the internet and immersive experiences to connect with the rest of the world on an equal footing.” He sees room for augmented reality applications in education, tourism, entertainment and e-commerce.
For Kunle Bamigboye, the CEO and co-founder of Coventi, a Nigerian company using virtual reality technology to transform how Nigerians consume media and entertainment, it just made sense to focus on the XR industry. Speaking to TechCabal, Bamigboye, along with his co-founders Adedokun Bamigboye and Gabriel Ukachukwu, said the inspiration behind Coventi is the growth of the global virtual events market and the ever-increasing adoption of mobile devices in Nigeria.
Last year, Nigeria’s mobile penetration rate was 37.34% and is projected to reach 48% by 2027. According to PwC, Nigeria’s media and entertainment industry is the fastest growing in the world, with a compound annual growth rate of 12.1%. Kunle Bamigboye added that the apparent growth of XR adoption in the continent’s media industry has prompted his company to focus on media and entertainment, although they are not just limited to media.
In February 2022, Chocolate City, one of the country’s leading music labels, used Coventi’s virtual platform to stream Blaqbonez’s concert live. According to Kunle Bamigboye, Blaqbonez online concert on Coventi platform was attended by hundreds of users from Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Canada, Cyprus, USA, UK and other countries. GT Bank has also approached Coventi as a media partner and the company is already making plans for GT Fashion Week.
But the XR space is not without its challenges
Ikenga says finding talent is the biggest problem with applying augmented reality on the continent. To solve this problem, Euphoria Labs is currently training AR developers and plans to create an academy for developers in the coming year.
For Adedokun Bamigboye, the biggest problem is raising awareness and educating the public about the technology. To address this problem, Coventi uses traditional media to show how Africa is already using extended reality. The company also plans to host hackathons in the future.
As more companies adopt XR across industries, from storytelling to marketing, and even more Nigerians engage with the technology in their daily lives, widespread adoption is just around the corner.