Africa’s online porn industry

May 21, 2017

An octogenarian bloke from Tanganyika who was educated in United Kingdom and spent there couple of decades, once told me that porn was a taboo in his country and many other parts of Africa with exception of Northern and Souther Rhodesia, South Africa and Namibia where boers lived on almost equal standards with western world where porn has been part of people’s lives for almost a century. When i sough his views recently about stories of Africans being involved in commercial porn, he couldn’t utter a word. That muted response was enough to convince me that Africa’s adult industry is changing, finding a new generation of liberated customers and losing old fashioned clientele. As brothels and short service hotels become increasingly acceptable, they’re also reinventing their business models to stay relevant in an age of ubiquitous online porn.The flourishing adult retail sector in Africa is one of the more visible signs of Africans’ changing attitude to overt sexuality.The old man did however says there’s been an increase in the number of adult business hotels, but they’ve also become more visible.They’ve moved from the back streets into the main streets and into suburban shopping malls, he told your blogger.There’s also been a huge increase in the availability of pornography, particularly online. At the same time, commercial sex work in countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa and Ghana has shifted from being street based to being primarily online as well.In some cases, customers who would have visited brothels in the past may now be exploring their sexuality through websites instead. Increasingly the camming culture, the practice of watching adult entertainers perform on webcams, has become a big facet of how Africans experience commercialised forms of sex. They perform and interact with their fans through the internet and provide sexual exhibitions.Many of these trends are on a global scale, although the industry’s fortunes are playing out in different ways across Africa, depending on local laws. If you are talking about sex work, you have a decriminalised model which exists in South Africa, you have a semi-legalised model which exists in Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria, and in countries like Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia among other countries sex work is in various status of illegality.The adult retailing is perfectly legal in terms of the type of products they sell.

In terms of selling adult toys and lingerie, they are all legal products in most African countries, but in terms of the planning and land use within African cities there are differences and countries variations.Adult stores started opening in Africa in the early 2000s, and have become increasingly popular as attitudes to sex have changed.The growth of the adult retailing sector has been quite profound in terms of physical stores and that’s an indicator of increased acceptance. When it comes to the online space in Africa, I did a bit of work looking at four particular online stores in Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa and tried to map the geography of where their products are going and i would be fair to say that their sales are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per annum, and that their products are going to suburbs all over Africa.Overall, Africa is seeing a rapid decline in the pornography side of the industry with sales for DVDs and magazines falling. With the internet, the pornography that’s found in such is insignificant now. It’s going to go the way of music and movies and those sorts of vendors that have disappeared. The model of products has got to change and some knowledgable vendors are doing their bit. Not only is the internet changing the product mix in adult stores, it’s also driving a process of normalisation with more women visiting adult stores as customers.The acceptability of adult retailing has seen porn buyers ranging from couples, LGBTI people and modern African women seeking to fulfil a feminine needs.Most of the consumers are mainly being served in corporate-style sex shops. In South Africa, there are a range of different stores with chains throughout cities.In Kenya and Nigeria on the other hand has seen the rise of erotic boutiques, often owned by women and really geared towards female consumers. According to facts available, they don’t necessarily define themselves as a sex shop. Their emphasis is around sexuality, around lingerie, and high-end designer sex toys.There are more and more stores on the high street that have an online store and a physical store, and they have adopted the discreet porn business model. Their agents are ensconced in major towns and cities as well as affluent suburbia bringing adult products to the Africa masses. No wonder the octogenarian bloke can’t grasp anything about Africa’s porn sector.

Contador Harrison