By Jean Pierre Afadhali

The journey of Roland Byagaba, a Ugandan media entrepreneur was full of ups and downs amid several business, market, and content monetisation challenges, but resilience led him to a sustainability path as Muwado, a storytelling platform for African writers, is now allowing thousands to tell their stories to a global audience. is a web-based portal used by various content writers to publish their stories.

The platform founder, Byagaba who is based in Kampala, Uganda started out straight from university after studying an IT course and co-founded a lifestyle magazine called ‘Elyt’ in 2011. The publication lasted about three years and it failed due to lack of advertising – the main source of revenue for magazines and other print media.

“They [magazines] are not marketable because they fail fast, they have a quick failure rate and advertisers want someone who will be around,” Byagaba explained in a recent interview with Jamlab Africa. “Yet on the other hand you cannot keep on operating if you do not have money.”

Now Byagaba, who is also a writer, believes his magazine failure experience pushed him to a sustainability path after founding a blog called Muwado ten years ago. He subsequently turned the blog into a publishing platform that allows various storytellers that include fiction, non-fiction writers, poets, journalists and bloggers to tell their stories to the global audience without restrictions.

Byagaba did not quit when the magazine was struggling. Instead, he and colleagues ventured into events organisation using the magazine that he said, had at the time, attracted a big audience. “So the parties started making more money than the magazine. But the magazine was relevant to sustain the brand, we kept on producing it nevertheless,” said the media innovator.

He later left the company because it was purely events, yet he was more interested in journalism and storytelling. Byagaba was subsequently approached by someone who wanted to start an agriculture magazine. However, after publishing one issue the same funding problem came. “I had joined on the assumption that my partner had enough funds to give us a runway till we had attracted advertisers. Then after the first issue, I realised that was not true and that was about it. That one collapsed like that,” said the Ugandan media entrepreneur.

The magazine publishers went online, but Byagaba says it did not work because without funding proper journalism it is not possible.

Byagaba recounts that he was influenced by the renowned Kenyan blogger Biko Zulu. Zulu’s blogging was popular and it was taking him around the world. Byagaba was inspired by the success of the Kenyan blogger. He recruited bloggers to write for his blog but it was not growing as he sometimes ran out of money to pay contributors. He then decided to make the platform open and let everyone create an account and publish their content.

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Muwado rises to become ‘Medium’ for Africa

“What I tried to do is to open it up freely and make it a platform for whoever wanted to share a story that may not necessarily fit in mainstream media. Or just share their content because there is a lot of conversation about gatekeeping, so social media has kind of changed that,” he explained. “Traditional media has been the gatekeeper of what goes out to the public.”

According to Byagaba, over 1,200 storytellers and consumers use Muwado, an acronym for Byagaba’s childhood nickname. A look at Muwado’s homepage shows various stories including lifestyle, history, business, adventure, culture, politics, and social issues. Writers are allowed to post anything. Byagaba said Muwado is a platform for Africa because a lot of Western platforms operate within Western contexts and they predominantly cater to the Western market. Most of the stories on the platform appear to be about Uganda and African countries.

The writer turned media entrepreneur likens Muwado to Medium a popular global online platform for storytelling.

Revenue generation is one of the major challenges online and traditional media outlets are facing. Muwado was not spared. Byagaba revealed that when he started as a blogger, he only had Google ads as a source of income but it was too little to sustain his business.

“I was disappointed with that model of Google Ads [website content monetisation service from Google]. That is the most immediate way to make some income for online content creators,” Byagaba noted adding he only made approximately $30 in five years.

Despite financial constraints, in 2022 Muwado got funding from the United Nations Development Programme as a creative enterprise grant to build monetisation features that include a subscription model which allows content creators to make income by revenue splitting with advertisers. The subscription is tailored to a specific content creator rather than the whole platform. Currently, the gift model is available, another source of income for writers.

“A reader can gift a storyteller once for a story they have written or gift monthly to storytellers who they support,” explained Byagaba. The advertising revenue share will be active by the end of the year.

While the platform has grown in recent years as more people from Uganda, Africa, and beyond use it to tell their stories, content moderation has been one of the challenges Byagaba faced. Censorship and misuse of the platform to publish inappropriate content and individual attacks have been difficult to manage.

Content moderation

According to Byagaba, the barriers to entry on the platform are low which makes it popular. “You just create an account and start posting. We don’t care. There is a downside to that but we have thoughts on moderation,” explained Byagaba. “Because we still have manageable numbers of posts coming in but at the point where we are scaling we are aware of this challenge that comes with this model.”

For instance, some of the content moderation issues Muwado faces are the people who post articles that contain accusations without strong evidence. Also, some writers have tried to use the platform to push their agenda against other people and governments. He says he has received complaints and sometimes articles were pulled down.

“Someone called and they were like what is this and why are you publishing this?” explained Byagaba alluding to what could be censorship.

Most of the platforms will have a very specific community of contributors. And to get in you have to first send your work, then they look at it if it fits within the voice of the platform and all of that, explained the Muwado founder. “Just come and write your thing, your audience will decide whether to like or not.”

Reporting supported by a micro-grant from Jamlab



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