Q&A With CEOs of Africa’s Rising Gaming Industry

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Written by Veronica Pamoukaghlian

AFKI: What are the funding and capital-raising challenges your company faces every day?

KIRO´O: I will definitively write a book about it one day. Before our full page press release in LE MONDE, local investors were sure we were just “another young dreamers` project” and international investors thought it was all a “Nigerian prince” scam. Our plan was good, our assets and evaluation of risks too, but there was a problem of trust. The hardest part was looking for the initial investors, but when they made the jump, others immediately followed. We have also organized our fundraising “step by step”, to build up trust and maximize the security of our investors` funds. We have a system of milestones in place, and they only move ahead with their investments once they see the results of the initial funding in the studio. We are very transparent with them about it, and it really works to keep both us and them in check and always try to stay on budget.

LETI ARTS: Investment is a big challenge. Investment in Africa focuses on infrastructure, natural resources and manufacturing with IT being less funded. It is possible to find angel investment funding but growth stage investment especially in a new industry as ours is very hard. It is hard to find investors who see the innovation and are willing to fund innovation versus focusing on immediate revenue.

AFKI: Are Africans interested in video games with African themes and a cultural roots component?

KIRO´O: Yes, but above all they want good games. If a game is African-based but has a poor staging
and un-ambitious game play, it will not be a success here.

LETI ARTS: Yes. I believe so. As long as the quality of the games are on par or exceed those of Western games, Africans are very interested in African themed games. Africans love and connect to their own culture but find it difficult to market it to the world through technology. Games are a new medium for expressing and communicating African culture, therefore they MUST be interested.

AFKI: What do you consider are the biggest players in your industry on the continent today?

LETI ARTS: Leti Arts, Kuluuya, Maliyo, Kola Studios, Afroes and counting.

KIRO´O: I think there is a big gaming base in South Africa and Nigeria, also in North Africa. As for the rest, there are a lot of gamers, but we must completely organize the distribution circuit.

AFKI: Where do you see your company in 10 years?

LETI ARTS: We see the mobile gaming and comic industry as an enormous opportunity. Globally, the mobile gaming industry is projected for $32 billion by 2016 and the digital comic space is growing 240 percent yearly. With over 1 billion mobile subscribers, increasing internet-enabled devices, and telcos and phone manufactures looking for localized content – the opportunity within Africa also has incredible potential.

LETI ARTS: We seek to be the premier entertainment company in Africa – providing engaging comics and games for Africa and beyond, with globally adored characters and revenue streams across the media industry. Our plan for doing this (within the next two years) is:

1. Create compelling characters and storylines with comics and games
2. Create LETI Entertainment Centre to host and push LETI content. Included: payment, sharing, multimedia capabilities, and advanced comic reading engine
3. Distribute Centre to phone manufactures and telcos for distribution, monetization and to build brand. Also push content through app stores and content providers
4. Build character branding through partnerships with merchandise, newspapers, television, restaurants, top brands
5. Open the LETI Entertainment Centre to other African content creators – developing the “Comixology for Africa”

Within the next ten years, LETI ARTS will have a portfolio of characters with brand awareness rivaling characters from Marvel and DC Comics. Character will have reach beyond digital comics and mobile games to merchandise, animated series, movies and music originating from Africa and extending globally. We will also focus passion for supporting and helping developing talent for game development and related disciplines in our high schools and universities.

KIRO´O: I see KIRO’O GAMES as the main video game and computer new media editor in Africa. I think the technology will evolve rapidly, for example, with augmented reality, and we will be in an ideal position to jump on this train from the start, and just keep moving, adapting new technologies as they come. But what I want the most, is to see games, animes, and comics based on Kiro´o games spreading all over the world.

AFKI: What are the most promising emerging markets in Africa in terms of video game development and the gaming industry?

LETI ARTS: South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Senegal

AFKI: How can the gaming industry contribute to Africa´s overall development?

LETI ARTS: We see gaming contributing significantly to the overall GDP of Ghana, about 20-30 percent. The gaming industry is bigger than the Music and the Movie industry combined in the US and Europe. This makes it a very important part of the economy. GTA V made revenue of about $1 billion in 24 hours.

AFKI: What is your view on video gaming industry and education? Can video games to contribute to education in Africa? If so, how?

LETI ARTS: Yes. Games will definitely contribute a lot to education. Both the development process and the actual playing of games will contribute to education. Game development provides a tangible means to understand programming concepts better as well as understand and spawn interest in STEM related courses. Research has shown that playing games improves problem solving and creativity skills in players. Also serious games are used as an interactive tool to teach and train students as it is more engaging than traditional methods.

AFKI: What is the state of your game AURION´s funding and what are your next steps?

KIRO´O: We have managed to raise already 30 percent of our global investment needs (more than 40,000 euros) and the studio is ready to launch, We are still looking for investors, who can become shareholders for as little as six hundred Euro. Now we must catch up with our set timeline and create that game we promised. I am very happy about this, because as this has been my dream since I was very young, and I am proud to say we are making it real step by step.