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Not All Fun And Games: African Gaming Companies Make A Difference

Driven by an increase in the availability of cheap phones and a jump in the number of telecom subscribers, the African gaming world is booming, to the delight of several ambitious developers on the continent. Mobile games often cost less than a dollar and can be downloaded quickly, making them easy to access on a budget and on the go. The African video game market is tiny in comparison to the $50 billion U.S. market, but growth is steady; at the end of 2013 the video game market in Kenya was worth $44 million and Nigeria’s valued at $71 million.

Although the action/adventure genre remains popular among consumers, many game creators are attempting to add more depth to their games in order to help reform Western perceptions of African countries. Developers attempt to use their games to tell unique African stories that break through widespread stereotypes. Abiola Olaniran, founder and chief executive of the Nigerian gaming company Gamsole, creates games with a distinctly African flavor that revolve around local characters in African cities. A continent of 54 countries and 3,000 cultures, there are a lot of stories to tell.

“African-themed games can be the future of gaming if people can relate with the content on a personal basis, based on their daily life experiences,” Olaniran notes.

Kuluya Games, based in Nigeria as well, also makes African culture the centerpiece of their games. One of the studio’s most popular apps is called Afro Fighters, and in it you can play as Safari the Warrior and attempt to defeat the Dark Lord of Oti. Similarly, Ghana’s Leti Arts created Ananse: The Origin, a game based on West African folklore that takes storylines from the tales of the ancients.

The influence of the growing African gaming market is not only cultural. In Nairobi, Allan Mukhwana of Momentum Core crafts his games to be educational. Momentum Core’s game Mosquito Hood tasks players with killing mosquitoes through several increasingly difficult levels. Each time a player completes all levels of the game, the Kenyan government has agreed to donate a mosquito net to a family living in a malarial zone. So far, the game has made it possible for 1,400 families to receive mosquito nets. The company has also created games raising awareness about HIV and focused on literacy.

Anne Shongwe, founder of the South African based gaming company Afroes, emphasizes the ways in which video games can be useful in inspiring social change. The company developed a game called Moraba in partnership with U.N. Women. The aim of the game is to end violence against women, and as players move through the game they are required to answer questions related to gender violence.

Although the African gaming market has a long way to go, especially in the arena of finance/budget, developers remain optimistic that a serious breakthrough is possible. The prospect that video games may be a useful in solving societal issues may seem far-fetched, but with the bright future that the gaming market seems to have, it should not be cast aside.

Katie Pickle

Sources: Elearning Africa, BBC
Photo: Google Play