The Port 001: Christine Ampaire of MyZiki, gives us a rundown on Uganda’s ‘itunes’ web app

Why Pirate local music when you can get it legit?

In our first Episode of The Port, we connect you up with Christine Ampaire who is one of the brains behind MyZiki, a popular music start-up web app developed by her and her teammates. She gives us an insight into the factors behind their success. For those wondering, ‘Ziki’ is basically a slung for Music in the local dialect thus MyZiki will stand for My Music literally speaking. This app has been hailed as Uganda’s ‘itunes’ as its basically functions in a similar manner. The icing on the cake here is that the methods of payment are not alien to the local community. With any Network’s payment money platform (Airtel Money, MTN Mobile Money, MPesa and Orange Money) you can buy yourself some great continental music on the go. The Port doesn’t focus on the tech people’s personal lives but instead the tech they bring us. So if you want to know more you can go ahead with either the video version or the written version of our interaction with Christine.


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(TJ: techjaja, CA: Christine Ampaire)

TJ: What is Myziki

CA: Myziki is a web application, mobile coming soon, that allows artists to sell their music online both to the local and also the diaspora community abroad. Currently, the service has only been rolled out in Uganda and is available for use by Ugandan musicians.

TJ: The Inspiration behind MyZiki

CA: Our inspiration came from the mobile money platform and the love for locally relevant applications. Its one thing to create a cool and nice looking app, but more important to create one with a positive impact on the community of especially non-techy individuals. We simply took the opportunity to make use of this mobile money platform and exploit its potential to satisfy the natural love for Uganda’s local music. It has always been hard to get your hands on authentic Ugandan music online, and we hoped to start home then spread out across Africa in future.

TJ: How Myziki differs from other alternatives

CA:The major difference is our integration with mobile money as an alternative electronic payment options like Visa which are more commonly used. At this moment we support Mobile Money, Airtel Money (Warid Pesa), Msente and soon Orange Money in effort to make it easy for everyone, even a student, to use the service.

TJ: What MyZiki has in store for us

CA: So far, we have 52 musicians signed up for the service, and you can expect the number to grow. It was challenging in the beginning to convince them that this will work, but those who have made some money from the site tend to spread the word. You can expect more music content and also poetry, spoken word creations because their popularity in Kampala is growing. Our site is optimized for mobile, but we have plans to officially launch the MyZiki mobile app sometime in 2014. Our targets are Android, Windows and the Apple store.

TJ: How MyZiki attracts users.

CA: For the lack of resources to do large-scale marketing in the form of billboards, TV commercials or radio we have depended on our relationships with signed artists whose influence on the social media to market the site. We also have a huge social media presence for ourselves where we closely engage our fans and connect them with artists. Within our small budget, we also take part in small events such as yego night which happens on the last Wednesday of every month. Yego Night aims to promote hip-hop artists and gives us a good chance to publicize MyZiki and also get some of the artists on board.

TJ: How consumers pay for the service

CA: They get to pay via any of the Uganda mobile banking platforms; Airtel Money, Mobile Money, Warid Pesa and m-sente. We also support electronic payment options including Visa, Mastercard and Paypal.

TJ: How have Ugandans reacted to the service?

CA: At first, there was a lot of negativity because Ugandans ordinarily do not buy music but rather get it freely on the internet or very cheaply in the street. However, the gradual feedback has proven that Ugandans love their music and are willing to support it enough to legitimately pay for it. Our biggest supporters are the ones in the diaspora, the ones overseas.

TJ: Challenges of MyZiki

CA: Starting is a challenge in itself, the platform goes through a lot of phases which we overcome in response to user feedback. Another challenge is our small budget which we work off to make as big an impact as possible.

TJ: What it takes to run a startup

CA: It quite time consuming and demands a lot of commitment. A startup is like a baby, and you need to give it all the time in the world to see it grow. It also takes a great team; awesome individuals who love what they do and the product they are working on. Resources are also key. We currently inject our own resources into our startup and hope to rip our benefits in the long run. We call it bootstrapping.

TJ: Advice for the rest out there looking to run a start up

CA:First, you should know your market. Second, know the relevance of your product to your community. It’s not enough that it’s awesome if it’s not useful. You also need a great team that will work for the love of it and not for the money, as it doesn’t come right away. Third, have a passion, be open to learning. Often, what you think you know changes when people uses their product. Expect criticism, eject what you think is not useful and take in what you think is. But most importantly, start!

TJ: Have you heard about techjaja?

CA: Yes I have, quite recently, and I think what you’re doing is really cool and useful. As the tech scene in Kampala grows, we need someone who will post authentic news and not just report off Mashable or some other place; no offence to people who do that. We need someone with authentic local content because as the tech scene grows, more venture capitalists will come in and they will need resources like techjaja to know where to invest their money and make the community better.