Business Management

Africa: The Animation Industry is Sprouting

In Kenya the name Michael Muthiga is synonymous with the slowly growing animation industry. And with the great success of his animated commercials, Muthiga has taken the thought of having a vibrant animation industry to a whole new level through his company, FatBoy Animation.

The Safaricom and Faiba ads on Kenyan television have received rave reviews over their creativity and sparked a conversation that should see the rise of the industry in Kenya and Africa.

Today the major hurdle is no longer skills, but resources to produce movies and television series in animation format. Many animators have been severely impacted by this. Now the industry is seeing a new crop of animators who are determined to change things.

The problem in the past was always that animation was not part of media productions in Africa. This was due to the fact that it was not something indigenous media could afford. However, South Africa has seen a steady rise in its animation production, with companies sprouting to fill the void. The country has seen the production of feature length animation movies such as Sea Monster and Khumba. For the rest of the continent though, it is hard to see a feature length movie.

It was certainly not easy for Muthiga to finally land in his job as a fulltime animator and actually make money out of it. Now he is the top animator in Kenya. In an interview with a local television channel, Muthiga described how he didn’t have much information on the local animation industry but he knew that is where his passion lay.

“Well I was sure that this was the career path I wanted to take but I was scared because [although] there was animation industry in the country,” Muthiga said. “Someone had to create the industry.”

Animators require a lot of equipment such as fast processors to render footage, machines that can handle heavy animation software and produce high quality work. Moreover, to produce a 20 minute animation could take up to four months, hence the need to have a big skilled workforce.

Chibudu Nyiro is the director and marketing manager of Ambience Media, which is aiming to redefine the animation and gaming industry in the region.

“Animation is a growing industry in East Africa right now,” Nyiro told IDG Connect. “If you look at the guys who are big right now [these] are people that started in 2007 and 2008.”

“Taking our material to the next level is a bit tricky because if we go to a client with our work they would dismiss us and want to work with established animators.”

This setback has not deterred him from pursuing his dream of making the animation industry a big deal in Africa:

“The industry in East Africa is going to be big. It will be ‘Dreamworks’ big. Just look at the logistics of doing a commercial and having actors on set. But if you look at the creativity in animation it is actually something that people are willing to pay for,” Nyiro said.

“Animation is expensive due to the machinery and software that is used. Making animated content is crazy because it takes time. So it becomes a great challenge for a startup to do that.”

“If there was a platform to support the animators it could be great. But also animators don’t want to share their work,” Nyiro explained. He said if there was a functional umbrella body, to bring animators together then the industry would greatly benefit.

Advancements from the industry in South Africa have been impressive. Triggerfish Animation has caught the headlines with its productions. Titles such as Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba have elevated the company to consumer animation.  Adventures in Zambezia was screened at Annecy International Animation Film Festival and won accolades at the 2012 Durban International Film Festival.

This year, South Africa’s animated series, Super Strikas, a football story, was bought by France TV after being the number one animated series in South Africa. This has been aired across different markets within Africa and beyond.

Currently, Nyiro and his company are working to have an African animated series out by the course of next year. For now, they have to contend with the numerous challenges that are still bedeviling the young industry.

One thing is certain: with the success stories being witnessed in the industry, African stories can be produced… and they will reach an extremely happy audience.


Vincent Matinde is an international IT Journalist highlighting African innovations in the technology scene


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Vincent Matinde

Vincent Matinde is an international IT Journalist highlighting African innovations in the technology scene.

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