Africans ‘locked into abusive contracts’
US and European distributors and streamers are taking advantage of creators in Africa by locking them into “abusive” low-value contracts that tie up all rights to their IP, according to Masseka Game Studio founder and tech entrepreneur Teddy Kossoko.
Kossoko told C21 at Cartoon Next in Marseille last week that he believes creators across Africa are not being given fair deals for their intellectual property by buyers in the US and Europe.
There has been a clamour among distributors and streamers for IP from African creators in recent years, as demand for diverse storytelling increases and streamers grow their international footprints.
Kossoko said this is resulting in games, comic books and animated IP created by African people ultimately being owned by companies based in the US and Europe, with creators giving up worldwide rights to their IP without being financially compensated appropriately.
“I’ve spent my life trying to fight against this situation. All of the licences, the IP of content created by people based in Africa, are outside the continent owned by companies based in Europe and sometimes the UK and US. It’s a fact,” said Kossoko.
“People in Africa, most of the time when they create something, they just want to have a little money in order to live. I hope in the next 10 years things are going to change because when Netflix comes and says, ‘I’ll give you US$1m,’ of course you are going to give all of the licences.
“We don’t have all of the protection you can find in Europe, with good lawyers who know IP law. I see every day people based in Africa discussing with distributors based here in Europe and when I see the contracts, sometimes they are abusive contracts. Distributors in Europe have all of the rights to do everything with the licence. It’s not acceptable.”
The entrepreneur said more needs to be done in Africa to educate the creative market about the importance of keeping hold of the rights to their IP and hopes things will start to change.
“The value of what you create is the IP,” said Kossoko, adding that the situation is resulting in Masseka Game Studio being unable to add certain properties to its edutainment platform Gara because they are tied up in global deals by distributors who have no intention of making them available in Africa.
Kossoko, who was born in the Central African Republic and moved to France in 2012, set up Gara in 2019 and describes it as the first African edutainment platform to allow anyone to distribute games and books and monetise them anywhere in Africa. Last year he created the first video game based on the myths and legends of Africa to be in the metaverse The Sandbox.
“To find the owner of the licence to bring it to our platform to attract users, we have to deal with companies based in the UK and France. It’s a nonsense. Most of the time these people don’t have Africa in their priorities,” Kossoko said.
Streamers such as Netflix have touted the positive impact they are having in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, where the streamer has commissioned and produced local originals, and said it has spent US$175m in sub-Saharan Africa since 2016.
Earlier this month it released a report on its socio-economic impact in the three countries.
Dean Garfield, VP of public policy at Netflix, said in the report that the streamer is “committed for the long term to investing, learning and achieving success in Africa,” while being “deeply sensitive to the societal contexts in which we operate – especially in emerging markets where economic growth and development are key to achieving global competitiveness.”
Garfield also said: “We are cognisant that Africa’s political and economic histories are rife with the realities of decades of extraction, exploitation and exclusion. These realities create structural barriers that, unless meaningfully confronted, continue to deny Africa’s own from accessing economic opportunity and prosperity.”