Can Video Game Development Help Africa Develop?

Kenyan game designer Wesley Kirinya says that people in Africa are willing to buy games "if the content is relevant and it is African."

But if game development is challenging in the more developed nations, it sounds positively daunting in Kenya. Kirinya, creator of The Adventures of Nyangi (see video) talked about the challenges of game development in Kenya with website All Africa:

When I made my first video game, I first wanted to test whether people in Kenya would pay for it. What I can say is that, yes, there’s a market here, but it’s not as big as in the U.S. or Europe. It’s the sort of market that grows with your product. But if I made a video game, it wouldn’t be just for Kenya. I could sell it all over the continent, especially if the content is relevant and it is African…

 

It’s tough to find the people with the necessary skills to program a video game. It’s like you’re designing a whole virtual world. It takes skills in physics and math, and a video game is nearly a real-time application…

Funding is a major issue, Kirinya said:

The second problem is finding capital. Video games can take one to two years to make. That means one to two years without generating money. The only way to operate sometimes is to take people on a reduced salary or stipend with the promise of a large bonus after the game is created.

 

It’s also… difficult to get the exact machine you want from computer dealers here. The kind of computers I need to buy cost about 200,000 Kenyan shillings (about U.S. $3,333). Then add another 50,000 Kenyan shillings (about $833) to ship them. Then you have to clear them through customs. The entire process from purchase to use can take months. Those kinds of delays can cause you to lose morale. So when we want to use the same machines as guys in the U.S. or Europe, we’re already at a great disadvantage.

Cox Newspapers reported last year on Kirinya’s game project, citing comments by Kenyan economist James Shikwati:

For him to just come up with a computer game is well ahead of his time because people will say, ‘Kenyans, computer games? No, we don’t make computer games. He has shown that computer games are not a preserve of the Western world.

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