Tigist Kebede, the Co-Founder and Operations Director of Habeshaview Technology and Multimedia, is a visionary entrepreneur passionate about Arts and Culture. Under her leadership, Habeshaview has become a rapidly growing entertainment and multimedia business in Ethiopia. They offer an OTT (Over the Top) & IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) platforms that stream content from Pan-African and underrepresented creators. With a focus on promoting Ethiopian culture, Habeshaview provides a global IPTV streaming service, distributes Ethiopian films internationally, and operates a white-label OTT platform. Their recent success includes hosting the London Ethiopian Film Event and bringing acclaimed films to audiences worldwide. EBR’s Eden Teshome sat down with Tigist Kebede for this exclusive
How did you identify the need for a platform like Habeshaview?
I lived abroad for a long time and had the opportunity to experience various streaming platforms like Apple and Netflix. I often wondered why there wasn’t a platform explicitly showcasing Ethiopian culture. Such a platform could be precious, particularly for children living in the diaspora. Providing them with their representation and enabling them to connect with their cultural roots could address the prevalent identity issues that are so common. This realisation led me to recognise the need for a platform like Habeshaview. I conceded there needed to be more in the market, where a streaming platform dedicated to showcasing our culture could be a powerful tool for preserving and promoting our heritage.
What challenges did you face in bringing Ethiopian films to the international market?
One of the main challenges was the need for global recognition for our film industry. Many international film festival organisers needed to know our existence and contributions to the cinematic world. It was challenging to convince people that we had a thriving film industry.
Getting our movies screened at prestigious festivals like the London Film Festival could have been smoother. We had to go through rigorous reviews and approvals to secure a spot for prime-time screening on a Saturday. The Habesha community needed to reach a wider international audience.
However, our biggest challenge was the availability of our movies for free on platforms like YouTube. It posed a dilemma as to why anyone would pay to watch a film that was already accessible without any charge. Despite this, we attracted foreign viewers, accounting for approximately 25Pct of our audience.
What is the role of Habeshaview in preserving and promoting Ethiopian cultural heritage?
Our main contribution is creating a platform that provides easy accessibility to our audiences, significantly promoting Ethiopian movies and culture to a broader audience. It facilitates the growth of the Ethiopian film industry. Additionally, our platform offers an excellent opportunity for filmmakers, as the revenue generated directly supports them. We plan to reinvest the platform’s earnings into creating new movies.
Tell us about the London Ethiopian Film Event and its significance in bridging the gap between Ethiopian cinema and international audiences.
The London Ethiopian Film Event bridges the gap between Ethiopian cinema and international audiences. One notable aspect of the event was the presence of two actors and two producers from the Ethiopian film industry on the red carpet this year. It created a buzz and garnered attention from foreign media, generating awareness about Ethiopian movies and filmmakers.
Our movies and posters were prominently publicised at the event, further contributing to the visibility of Ethiopian cinema. This exposure at a global platform is crucial in creating awareness among international audiences about the unique stories, talent, and cultural richness in Ethiopian films.
The significance of the London Ethiopian Film Event lies in its ability to open doors for Ethiopian movies to appear in similar events in the future. By participating in such prestigious gatherings, Ethiopian cinema gains recognition, respect, and validation on an international scale. It helps break down barriers and challenges in promoting Ethiopian films globally, leading to increased collaboration, distribution, and broader exposure opportunities.
What impact do you hope to achieve by taking vintage films like “Hirut, Abatwa Manew?” and “Tsetset” on a global tour?
The decision to take a vintage film like “Hirut Abatua Manew” (1965) instead of a more recent production for the global tour was intentional. It aimed to convey the message that Ethiopia has a longstanding history of filmmaking. By showcasing a film from that era, we highlight the rich cinematic heritage of Ethiopia.
Similarly, “Tsetset,” produced by a female investor, has a unique impact. It represents the diversity and talent within the Ethiopian film industry. By featuring this movie alongside “Hirut Abatua Manew,” we demonstrate the evolution of filmmaking techniques and storytelling styles over time.
The global tour of these films for the Ethiopian diaspora community serves several purposes. Firstly, showcasing past cinematic achievements fosters a sense of pride and connection to Ethiopian culture. Secondly, it creates an opportunity for the diaspora community to engage with their heritage and experience the cultural nuances depicted in the films. It also encourages dialogue and appreciation among international audiences, promoting a deeper understanding of Ethiopia’s film history and contemporary contributions.
How has the partnership with Ethio Telecom helped launch the Habeshaview IPTV service in Ethiopia, and what impact do you anticipate it will have on the local market?
Habeshaview takes pride in being the first platform to introduce IPTV in Ethiopia. Our partnership with ethio telecom, which began in 2018, has been integral to the successful launch of our IPTV service. This long-term collaboration has proven mutually beneficial.
As IPTV heavily relies on a stable and reliable internet connection, our partnership with ethio telecom has played a vital role. By working together, we have improved the quality of internet connectivity in Ethiopia, ensuring a seamless viewing experience for our users.
The impact of our partnership with ethio telecom on the local market is significant. It has opened up new possibilities for accessing and consuming entertainment content. Through our IPTV service, we bring a wide range of local and international movies, TV shows, music, and more to Ethiopian audiences, providing them diverse and high-quality entertainment options.
The collaboration with ethio telecom has created opportunities for local content creators, including filmmakers, musicians, and artists, to showcase their work to a broader audience and monetise their talent.
As the co-founder and operations director, how do you balance film’s artistic and creative aspects with the business side of running a successful media company?
I thrive on my passion for work and my dedication as a self-proclaimed workaholic. Balancing film’s artistic and creative aspects with the business of running a media company is a dynamic challenge that I embrace. By surrounding myself with a talented team, fostering collaboration between creative and business departments, and continuously expanding my knowledge, I strive to create an environment where creativity and business acumen can thrive. It allows us to run a successful media company that respects the artistic process and the business world’s demands.
What are your long-term goals and aspirations for Habeshaview?
Our long-term plan is to expand our reach beyond Ethiopia and become a one-stop shop for African-made content. We have already made strides by visiting London and planning to extend our presence to Australia.
Over the next five and ten years, we aim to take our movies to America and Europe while expanding our services across Africa. By offering a wide range of African-made films, music, and other forms of entertainment, we aspire to become a go-to destination for audiences seeking high-quality African content.
What advice do you have for aspiring women entrepreneurs?
As an entrepreneur with a workforce of 80 Pct women, I firmly believe that women have the capacity and work ethic to excel in any field. Our gender should not define us but by our capabilities and determination. Women are not weaker; we possess unique qualities that contribute to our success.
I advise aspiring women entrepreneurs to seize opportunities and earn their positions. Positive discrimination is not the answer; we must have confidence in our abilities and continuously strive to improve ourselves. Independence and staying up-to-date are crucial. Be proactive in seeking knowledge and never hesitate to ask questions when faced with unfamiliar territory.
Remember, success comes from hard work, dedication, and believing in your potential. Embrace your strengths, be bold, and pursue your entrepreneurial dreams with unwavering determination. You have the power to achieve greatness. EBR
12th Year • December 16 2023 – January 15 2024 • No. 124