Guest Articles

December 4

Abdulrahman Khedr

Making Africa the Animation Capital of the World: A Growing Industry Aims to Take its Place Among its Global Peers

Africa has an incredibly rich history in storytelling. In fact, the beginning of imaginative expression has been said to originate in Africa. Not only that, but storytelling has long been the basis of knowledge-sharing and learning on the continent, as stories were used to teach values to children and transmit lessons of wisdom and cultural and historical knowledge. Ancient artworks, some as old as 80,000 years, have been found in Africa, which stand as a testament to the claim that the continent holds within it some of the earliest forms of human creativity. According to Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell’s theory on how cultural legacies can define success, Africa should be a dynamic force in the creative industry that has long been dominated by the Global North.

The creative industry encompasses a wide spectrum of fields, including music, crafts, film, TV, animation, video games, publishing, design, fashion, architecture, advertising and marketing. While Africa has made huge (and sometimes well-publicised) strides in some of these areas, its animation industry is currently undergoing a seemingly unnoticed revolution. 


African Animation: A Blossoming Industry

From its modest beginnings, which can be traced to Moustapha Alassane’s 1966 film “La Mort de Gandji,” African animation has evolved into a global phenomenon. The continent produced over 100 animated films and TV shows in 2021, according to the African Animation Network. Recent titles like “Supa Team 4” and “Iwaju” have gained international recognition, finding their way onto global streaming platforms and cinemas. More recently, the South African-directed animated film, The Smeds and the Smoos, won an International Emmy for Best Kids’ Animation. Triggerfish, the most awarded animation studio in Africa, has contributed immensely to this growth in African animation. Notably, the release of “Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire,” an anthology of 10 short animated films by local creators, produced in collaboration with Disney and Triggerfish, has been perhaps the most pivotal moment for African animation. Giraffics, my Egypt-based animation studio, served as a key resource in the development of the anthology, having been involved in the production of two of the 10 films: “Stardust” and “First Totem Problems.” 

Admittedly, Africa’s animation industry has enormous room for growth. For context, in 2022, its animation market reached a value of $12.3 billion, significantly smaller than North America’s industry, which holds a 35% share of the $259 billion global animation market. But though it has historically been overshadowed by traditional animation powerhouses abroad, the continent is now asserting itself as a hub for animated storytelling, leveraging its cultural diversity, creative talent and technological advancements to carve out a unique niche in the animation world.


Four Factors Driving the Growth of Africa’s Animation Industry

Africa’s ascendancy in the animation industry can be attributed to several key factors:

  • Changing Customer Tastes: In an increasingly interconnected world, global audiences are hungry for fresh narratives and diverse perspectives. African storytellers are rising to the occasion, weaving their rich cultural tapestry into captivating animated content. Animated movies set in Africa but produced abroad have recorded huge success over the years, including popular titles such as “Madagascar,” “Tarzan,” “The Prince of Egypt” and “The Lion King,” the latter being one of the highest grossing animated films of all time. But the time has now come for more domestically produced African stories to take centre stage. Olivier Laouchez, the CEO of the Trace Group, a leading global broadcast and digital media company specialising in Afro-urban music and entertainment, confirmed that 95% of the clips consumed by their audience are African, alluding to the fact that African audiences want African stories. The influx of streaming giants such as HBO Max, Netflix, Cartoon Network, Disney and others who are working on African animation projects shows how major global players are also focusing on Africa-centric animated content to meet changing customer tastes and demands.
  • A Rising Talent Pool: Animation is a multifaceted sector which requires a variety of specialised skills and a strong labour force. It includes 2D animation, 3D animation, motion graphics, stop motion animation and VFX, with each having various subsets such as architectural animation, medical animation and more. Africa’s animation industry has witnessed a surge in talented artists, animators and storytellers who are eager to fill these various niches. Specialised animation training programs in African countries, like NET-INFO in Tunisia, are nurturing this new generation of creative minds. This influx of talent is shifting the industry’s focus from outsourcing to local production, resulting in more animated works featuring all-African creative teams. Take for instance “Coconut Confidential,” by award-winning screenwriter Lindiwe Suttle Müller-Westernhagen — and of course the above-mentioned “Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire,” which was brought to life by African filmmakers and featured the voices of African actors. With the growth in the continent’s talent pool, it’s likely that talent arbitrage will be a factor in big productions moving to Africa’s shores. For instance, the 2D animated film “Kenda” cost just €43,000 to produce, and the 3D animated film “Lady Buckit and the Motley Mopsters” cost €655,000. This pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions of dollars in costs accrued in the production of animated works in other, more established markets. Foreign production companies are aware of this, and African talent will continue to benefit as a result.
  • Embracing Technological Advancements: The digital age has made animation technology more accessible and affordable, levelling the playing field for African animators. Access to cutting-edge technology and software, coupled with a growing tech-savvy youth population, has empowered African studios to create world-class animated content. And crucially, these technological advancements also include the streaming services and video-on-demand platforms which continue to transform how movies and TV shows are produced and consumed, and also provide a global audience for African content. Prior to the emergence of streamed content, the reach of African animated works was constrained by inadequate distribution and exhibition networks. 
  • Global Collaborations: Cross-border collaborations are igniting Africa’s ascent in the animation realm, sparking partnerships with international studios, educational institutions and production companies. These alliances have become a catalyst for African animators, offering exposure and the opportunity to glean wisdom from industry luminaries, thereby amplifying the continent’s animation prowess. The impact of these collaborations can be seen in the unveiling of “Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire,” which represents a beacon of hope for every African studio and talent working in the animation sphere. This groundbreaking production has provided a platform to exhibit African animators’ unrivalled talents to the world. From the moment Giraffics was first approached by Triggerfish to join forces on this project, it was clear that the core theme would be the celebration of African culture and heritage. The anthology serves as a window to explore the diverse traditions and cultures that form the very essence of our multifaceted continent. What sets it apart is that viewers can experience these narratives from the original source: African writers, directors and producers. 


The Road Ahead for African Animation

Africa’s journey to becoming the world’s next major animation hub is well underway, and its momentum continues to grow. To sustain and accelerate this growth, investments in infrastructure, education and distribution networks will be essential. And fostering an environment that nurtures creativity and innovation will also be crucial. This can be done by: developing specialised educational programs and courses in animation at various levels, from schools to tertiary institutions; providing widespread access to high-speed internet and the latest animation software and hardware; creating collaborative spaces and hubs where animators can work together and share resources; enacting favourable policies and regulations that incentivise the animation industry, including tax incentives, grants and subsidies; and streamlining copyright laws and intellectual property protection to encourage creators and investors.

As Africa’s animation industry expands, it will bring substantial economic benefits to the continent, including job creation, increased exports of animated content and the development of a skilled workforce. Africa’s rise in the global animation industry is a testament to its creative prowess and determination. If this momentum is amplified, the world can look forward to a future where Africa takes its rightful place as a thriving animation hub, enriching global animation with its unique stories and perspectives. It’s time for the world to recognise that Africa’s animation journey is not just a possibility; it’s a promising reality.


Abdulrahman Khedr is CEO at Giraffics.

Photo provided by the author.




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