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Investors train eyes on African youth with gaming campuses

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IN early June, Maliyo, a game studio in Nigeria began training its pioneer class of 27 participants, drawn from the West African country as well as Kenya, Cameroon and South Africa, while this July, Microsoft is scheduled to run a 2-day virtual gaming camp that will take place across four African cities: Cairo, Lagos, Nairobi, and Johannesburg.

Also lining up in a growing list of gaming academies and short-term learning experience camps springing up on the continent is ‘Level up Africa’ with a planned student intake in early 2024.

Organisers of all these virtual and onsite programs -lasting from two days to a year- are targeting young professionals in the creative sector.

They also have an overlapping mission, according to a recent report, ‘to unlock Africa’s youth potential through training to spur growth of (the) gaming industry.’

PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ Africa Entertainment & Media Outlook 2022-2026 shows that video game and esports revenues in key African markets already surpass those in music, radio and podcast.

According to the outlook, South Africa’s video and esports revenues stood at US$379 million compared to music, radio and podcast which were worth US$360 million.

Kenya’s video game revenues in 2022 were US$137 million, compared to US$134 million from music and radio, while Nigeria’s video games and esports generated US$325 million compared to music, radio and podcasting at US$182 million.

The opportunity, however, is far greater than what the market is currently seeing, prompting deep-pocketed organisations to invest in skilling up local developers to be able to build local gaming content that will attract more African (and international) players.

Maliyo said it provides a three-month skills transfer course, free, through its ‘Game Art Training Programme’ and will engage mentors as well as a peer support community for the participants, who will be trained in character design, promotional art design, environment design, scene design, animation, storyboarding, and 3D modelling.

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“You’ll also develop skills in art collaboration, communication, and teamwork, all crucial skills in the games industry,” said Maliyo in an update on its website.

Maliyo Academy received 376 applications from young African candidates in 15 countries, including the diaspora (in Georgia, Brazil, Serbia, the United Kingdom and the USA), signalling wide interest.

Microsoft’s Africa Transformation Office announced it was looking for individuals of working age, currently employed, or still studying, for its Xbox Game Studios Game Camp, scheduled for July 15th and 16th.

“The program aims to empower creators across the world to realise their potential in the gaming industry through unique learning experiences from industry leaders,” said the tech giant in its call for participants.

Microsoft targets trainees and professionals in software development, visual arts, 3D, music and audio, web design, narrative design and project management.

Level Up Africa, run by seasoned game developer and instructor Samuel Asher Rivello, is set to offer advanced Unity Game Development Training in five cities, namely Cairo, Nairobi, Lagos, Dar Es Salaam and Cape Town.

Unity is a cross-platform game engine company that provides various tools and services for creators to produce games. According to the company, over 72% of top mobile games played on Android and IOS are created using its versatile game engine, with up to 5 billion monthly game downloads, globally.

The Unity certified developer and instructor with over 20 years of industry experience told bird in an interview that while Africa’s youthful population bulge offers the global market a large and growing pool of players, the growth rate of home-grown developers has been too slow to fully unlock Africa’s gaming potential.

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He said training is critical in Africa for game development to grow.

“The capacity and output of such teams are limited and developers are unable to compete in the global marketplace. Individuals with more skill and experience will make a larger impact in the global games industry,” said Rivello.

Africa is projected to host over a quarter of the world’s population under 25 years, a demographic that will make up 60% of the continent’s total population by 2030. This offers a huge opportunity for gaming marketers.

According to the World Economic Forum, 15 to 20 million young people will join the African workforce annually for the next two decades.

Research firm, NewZoo shows that South Africa (40%) has the largest share of its population gaming, followed by Nigeria (23%) and Kenya (22%). Players in these markets mostly prefer mobile games.

Currently, ‘Level up Africa’ organisers are scouting for potential funders, employers, community managers and educators for the program.

“The potential opportunities for partners in each location is vast and we are still in discussion and figuring out exactly how and when we can meet the needs of each of these partners,” said Rivello.

The Unity-specific training is structured to upskill career-ready professionals who will, in turn, be expected to train local teams to offer ongoing training to their community.

The ultimate goal is to attract more game development work to Africa – offering an opportunity for African developers and creators to include their cultural stories in their games, characters and images – and to create new financial and business opportunities.

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New technology academies on the continent, alongside some of Africa’s most distinguished tertiary institutions, are also gaining a toehold in this space, either with standalone courses on gaming or by bundling learning units into existing but related programs.

In Kenya, Tech Kidz Africa is targeting children ages 7 to 19 with customised gaming software programs and hardware robotic kits, while the Africa Digital Media Institute offers a Video Game Design and Development course.

In South Africa, the University of Witwatersrand has introduced game design courses in two of its degree programmes -its Bachelor of Arts in Digital Arts (BADigA) and Bachelor of Engineering Science in Digital Arts, or BEngSc (Digital Art) degrees.

“Game development is a massive international industry. At Wits we are working closely with the game development community, keeping our fingers on the pulse of the industry as it takes shape here in Africa and internationally” the university posted on its website.

Meanwhile, Ghana’s esports academy has found a niche by growing the local esports industry through training and organising esports events to prepare its youth for a global industry ‘bigger than music and video combined in revenue.’