Animation is a powerful medium for visual storytelling. The industry is worth billions of dollars internationally. However, studios on the African continent have traditionally not been able to access this revenue. This is in part due to the lack of distribution channels available to reach any potential audience.
The African Animation Network’s (AAN) talent-driven, social enterprise was created to address these issues facing the industry on the continent. AAN has partnered with national animation associations, comic conventions and studios in East, Southern and West Africa. It hopes that, through this strength-in-numbers approach, it will be able it to assist in building a self-sustaining African animation sector.
Two-Pronged Approach- Africa & Diaspora:
The first step in reaching this goal is a two-pronged approach; in accessing MTN’s Subscriber Video On Demand (SVOD) platform in Africa, and satiating the African diaspora’s thirst for home-grown content, AAN has in this regard partnered, respectively with; SSTREAMM (MTN’s streaming and VOD service provider) and DreamAfrica (the SVOD mobile application and enterprise as seen at TED Talks, Harvard University and 3 Rivers Screenwriters Conference and The Next Africa).
AAN’s initial focus is short-form, animated content. Beyond the popularity of this genre in animation consumption, it also makes it possible for audiences with limited bandwidth and producers with limited budget to access audience and generate the highest quality African animation content possible. Furthermore, it frees animation producers up to generate completed projects in shorter time frames whilst not requiring a lot of resources and finance.
In the short-term, AAN endeavours to attract animation content producers and studios who can deliver episodic content of consistent quality and generate an ancillary revenue stream for them. A scheduled delivery of new content is key to building an audience which will be central to creating a sustainable African animation industry. The target audience has also been carefully chosen after research revealed that children’s animation (pre-school to 12 years old) is the biggest driver behind the billion-dollar, global, animation industry.
Africa, with a population of 1.2 billion people, is the 3rd largest territory by population globally (behind China & India), has the fastest urbanising population in the world, is the fastest growing smart device market globally and has a burgeoning middle-class- with current estimates at +-300 million people.
Nick Wilson, project manager of AAN said; “At MIPCOM 2012, one of the keynote speeches was on #SocialTV. The discussion centred on digital technology/social media as a 2nd screen. In Africa however, digital technology is 1st screen. Depending on which market research company you quote, TV penetration is about 10% in Africa. That equates to approximately 120 million TVs, whilst mobile penetration is significantly higher- MTN alone (the largest telecommunications service provider in Africa) has 236 million sim cards in circulation. There is a straightforward analogy; Africa bypassed fixed-line telecommunications and went straight to cellular- the same is happening in the broadcast space. Within 5-10 years, Africa will be at the frontier of digital content distribution and consumption trends globally – not only in animation but across all broadcast mediums.”
Greg Upton, managing director of SSTREAMM, continued; “We have a robust platform on the single biggest telecommunications infrastructure in Africa. We are excited about creating a platform for the fledgling African animation industry and are looking for the very best animated content that represents the richness and diversity of cultures on the continent.”
AAN, in partnership with SSTREAMM will launch the AAN SVOD Mobile Channel, targeting kids aged 2-12 years; in late November 2017 at a rate of R2/day (R60/month or +-$4.5/month). The AAN SVOD mobile channel will initially launch in South Africa and will be rolled-out to the rest of the MTN footprint on a territory-by-territory basis in the next year.
Another key component to both creating; a self-sustaining industry and, changing perceptions of Africa, is to find an international audience. One avenue to this goal is the market of African expats. AAN hopes to reach this internationally-based African community through its partnership with DreamAfrica.
DreamAfrica is an SVOD application/service, not dissimilar to MTN’s SSTREAMM, that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. It empowers content creators to reach new audiences through its international reach.
AAN and DreamAfrica, through this partnership, have negotiated a content exchange. An AAN channel will be created on DreamAfrica’s platform for AAN content suppliers to showcase their titles to the African audience living in the diaspora, whilst simultaneously, DreamAfrica will have a channel within the AAN bouquet for them to showcase their popular, multicultural animated content. The DreamAfrica app is available on the PlayStore and offers its services at $5.99/month, making it a tempting offer to this possible audience.
As a platform DreamAfrica will act as an innovation and curation partner to AAN members. It is already home to the popular African animation series Bino and Fino, Azizi Tales, and Storried Nigeria. As the founder of the SVOD service, Brian Asingia from Uganda forged the partnership with AAN as part of its mission to grow their children’s offering.
Asingia said; “DreamAfrica is a global initiative to create, discover and celebrate multicultural storytellers through a regional lens. As seen at TED Talks, Harvard University, and 3 Rivers Screenwriters Conference, we are redefining the narrative around cross-cultural representation across the world. With this in mind, collaboration with AAN was natural as we have many aligned and common goals.”
Call for Content:
AAN hopes to expand on its catalogue of animation producers through its call for content. The AAN DreamAfrica and MTN SSTREAMM channels endeavour to give as many animation producers as possible a platform for their stories to shine.
Submissions are now open for short-form animated content aimed at pre-school to 12-year-old children.
Submit your content HERE.