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MIA animation execs call for African stories

Animation executives from across Africa have revealed their desire to tell “African stories in an African way” during what they describe as a “golden era” for the industry.

Mounia Aram

A panel called Defining the World Markets at the MIA event in Rome this week brought together talent from Morocco, Ghana and South Africa to discuss the continent’s burgeoning industry and how the growth of tech and its booming  population of young people means content is being produced in new and innovative ways for an increasingly large audience.

Mounia Aram, founder and distributor at MA Company, which is based in France and Morocco, said challenges facing aspiring animation studios were related to infrastructure but that the industry in Africa is on the cusp of breaking out internationally.

“It’s hard sometimes in some countries with electricity or internet shutdowns, so you need to be creative in terms of infrastructure,” Aram said. “It’s an emerging industry, it’s really small. But it’s really exciting because we’re at the beginning of something really huge and we are happy to work hard because we are passionate about it. We see the potential in African animation but it will take time. Patience is also the key.”

Sithembiso Mpehle

Sithembiso Mpehle, exec producer at South Africa’s Tshimologong, said: “What you’re witnessing now is the first generation of independent animators who are making that wave from an African point of view. Even though there are these challenges – infrastructure, finances –we’ve got a bubbling industry that’s emerging.

“There’s an energy about it and people are not waiting for some miracle to come and say, ‘Hey guys, here you go. Here’s an industry.’ They’re actually making it for themselves and in that space is a lot of collaboration that happens and if you look at any industry, where there is collaboration, that’s where industry is born and how industries grew. It’s happening now.

Mpehle also credited the “advent of technology” for making it possible to allow producers to communicate with each other across the continent.

“When I started my animation studio in 2015, to have 1,000 views on YouTube organically was an achievement. Now people are making millions in a week. That shows there’s more people with phones and the internet, that shows there’s a market,” he said. “Now there’s an independence that’s growing where people are taking power into their own hands and not waiting. If you problem-solve, you’re an artist and that’s the credit we need to give a lot of Africans. It’s just a matter of time when there will be a booming industry, but there’s a desire to tell African stories the African way.”

Francis Y Brown, founder and creative director of AnimaxFYB in Ghana, added: “We are definitely in the golden era of animation industry. We still have a lot of raw talent and Africa being the youngest continent in the world, and also most populated when it comes to young people, it means there’s a huge market that’s about to blossom in Africa.”

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