Opportunity knocks for creative young Kenyans

Monday, November 4th, 2019 08:05 |
Wanjiku Mwangi is a make-up artist who left a well-paying job to channel her creativity into make-up artistry.

Dr. Laila MACHARIA, Mr. Ghislain DE VALON and Mr. Stephane ANDRE       

 Technology is making an impact on films industry, with most animators using computer-generated imagery

The high level of youth unemployment in Kenya is a matter of concern to many families. There are far too many well-educated young men and women who do not get the opportunity to put their education to good use.

And the government has been making great efforts to create jobs across various fields. The private sector and development partners have also been seeking ways to address the issue.

In this context, we are pleased to point out an emerging field which offers just such opportunities: in the entertainment field of animation.  Now, to most people, “animation” suggests the cartoons you see on TV or movies. But there is far more to it than that. 

Animation, properly understood, is “a method in which pictures are manipulated to appear as moving images”. The global market for such animated movies is not only vast but also intercultural.  Animated movies are not limited only to the movies based on characters and events in the US, as so many Hollywood movies with flesh and blood actors are.

Technology is also making a huge impact on the industry, with most animations today made with computer-generated imagery (CGI).  Another advance is the relatively new “video streaming” technology.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, companies which offered video entertainment had physical shops where you could go and borrow a DVD or a video cassette. But streaming made all that logistics capacity redundant. Now, provided you have a computer—or a tablet—and access to WiFi, you can have an account with a video streaming service that works all over the world. 

In Kenya, the entertainment and media industry represented a turnover of $2.2 billion in 2015. Since then, the average growth rate is estimated to be 8.3 per cent, mainly driven by the Internet and TV. With Kenyan law requiring local content to represent 60 per cent of the programming broadcast, the creation of original content will experience significant growth and create job opportunities for highly skilled professionals.

And this is where the Africa Digital Media Institute—or ADMI—comes in. 

With support from the French Development Agency, in the form of an 800,000 Euro grant from France, ADMI has joined forces with the top-ranked French animation school RUBIKA to establish two world-class programs in Nairobi for the creative professions.

French animation movies and the know-how of the French animators are recognised worldwide, with several international successes in the last few years. With 5,000 persons working in the animation sector, France is the third largest producer of animated movies in the world. The same applies to the video game industry: with approximately 1,000 companies working in this sector in France, some of them, like Ubisoft, recognised internationally, the sector is a key source of employment.

RUBIKA is a school of animation and video games ranked number one in France. Its students and alumni have received many awards on short animation movies and video games. Thanks to this high recognition, 90 per cent of the students get a job less than six months after being awarded their diploma.

The joint animation training programme will start in January in Nairobi, with the selection of students by end of this year. It will include classes taught by RUBIKA faculty at ADMI as well as students, faculty and staff exchanges between France and Kenya (students from each institution going to the other). 

Another ongoing project funded by AFD and the EU will support an incubator by Kenyan-based Heva Fund for animators in East Africa working alongside ADMI students. Students who complete this course will not then be left to make their own way. The project will support promising animators along every step of the production supply chain.

Africa is on the cusp of an animation revolution. From the world-famous Tinga Tinga Tales, produced in Kenya and syndicated worldwide, to Nigeria’s Malika: Warrior Queen, demand is growing for African stories told in a unique style.

—Macharia is ADMI director; de Valon, director of AFD Kenya and Andre, RUBIKA chief executive

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