Shingai MtezoBy Shingai Mtezo|September 28, 2022|6 Minutes|In R&G Season II

Risk and Glory

Its been a tough five years

Africa has a young population that is quite impressionable. Technology has helped usher in a generation that is comfortable with the fast-everchanging technological world of today and they are constantly hungry for more innovations. 

I have always believed that Africa needs to see itself in a positive light and a revolution in self-belief is fundamental to Africa making its long overdue jump in development and productivity.

The entertainment industry is a key component to unlocking that self-belief. Creatives and entertainers have always had a unique opportunity to not only capture Africans’ imagination early, but also transport them both into the future as well as its often overlooked, but revered, past.

Animation is a vehicle that is perfectly suited to do just that. The global animation industry Is currently valued at just over US$200bn. The bulk of the market share is dominated by the US, Europe and Asian markets. The African market represents a small percentage as presently constructed. It’s always easy to attribute this current reality to the common phrase: “It’s a small market”.

I disagree strongly with that school of thought. I prefer to think of it as a sleeping giant of a market that is ready to emerge.

Africa has been the home of storytelling for since the birth of humankind. So many civilizations have come and gone. So many stories have been told, written, acted, and many have vanished over time. There is so much source material to choose from that we are spoilt for choice.

I established Ruvara Studios with the primary goal of producing not just African stories, but quality and long-lasting bodies of work from the continent.

There is a general notion, across Africa, that we must accept substandard products and services simply because it’s made for Africa! I do not subscribe to that school of thought. I believe if you are going to build any product or service, build it right, built it for everybody.

Ruvara Studios initially serviced the local Zimbabwean and regional clients in the advertising industry. Our typical workloads were  30-second commercials that carried low to medium production value because of their limited budgets. So, to pivot the business towards developing high end multi-million- dollar projects, we had to change a lot about how we approached our work. It was going to be an organic process because there was no big budget to work with and a lot learning to be done.

The first step was to identity a story that we felt connected with a wide audience. That came in the book Rosie, The African Elephant by Janet Kaschula. We used the book as the foundation for our film we named ROZI – Once Upon a Bushtime. The second step was to develop and a 5-minute proof of concept for the film that stood up to the highest level of scrutiny because it is inevitable that the film is going to be compared to works coming out from the traditional markets. It will have to hold its own against works from heavyweight studios like Disney, Pixar, Sony, Illumination just to mention a few. It’s been a tough 5-year period but like our logo, we stood tall and welcomed the challenge. We went from iteration after iteration until we got to that event horizon were finally understood what it takes to produce high-quality work, there is light at the end of the tunnel after, and what a gratifying feeling it is, to say the least. The proof of concept for our first film ROZI-Once Upon a Bushtime is almost ready and we looking forward to pitching it to investors and different content aggregators.

The distribution of content across Africa is not as poor as some might argue. The movie going culture, which is second nature in the traditional markets, is considered a luxury item in most African countries because it is tied to the existence of shopping malls whose distribution across Africa is sparse considering the population sizes. This has presented another huge opportunity to provide solutions and its already being solved by the various Subscription Video On Demand platforms available on the market.

The next step is to upscale Ruvara Studios. I feel Ruvara is gone through the critical baby steps needed to understand itself as one of the pioneers of African animation and we are on open to engaging strategic partners interested in joining our vision. We have a bold plan to increase our footprint on the content both from an infrastructure and talent perspective. We are planning to launch the R-NIMATE Hub in 2023, whose primary goal will be to train and mentor non-technical and technical artists, regardless of their skill level and age, with industry-relevant skills that will allow them to quickly dovetail with our live projects. Ruvara’s story ins only getting started, there is plenty more in the pipeline.