Meet Madiba Oliver, the entrepreneur who owns the first video game company in Africa - MADE AFRICANS


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Monday, 12 March 2018

Meet Madiba Oliver, the entrepreneur who owns the first video game company in Africa

Meet Madiba Oliver, the entrepreneur who owns the first video game company in Africa

The growth of Africa’s comic culture has given rise to the likes of Comic Republic with superhero characters and lifestyles that Africans can finally relate to and the reception so far has been incredible. However, a young Cameroonian may just have taken this initiative to the next level. Madiba Olivier, who has always enjoyed video games, is now pioneering his own brand of games with African content and characters in central Africa by incorporating African folklore.

Growing up poor in Cameroon, the son of a sugar factory employee and a video store owner, Madiba became obsessed with videogames, but with no industry in his home country, he had no viable career options in the field. “I had a little dream to become good in computer science and maybe go to America to work for a studio,” he recalls. “But it’s not so easy to travel from Africa, and my parents didn’t have money.”

After learning to code and graduating with a degree in computer science from the University of Yaoundé in 2009, Madiba used the Internet to teach himself how to make games and build a company. Gathering a small group of friends, he began working on a game that drew from their own culture and history. Instead of using the typical wizards and warriors of most role-playing games, they created a fantasy action adventure that imagines “how the world would be if Africa was at the top,” he says.

Initially named Madibao Corporation Studio, Kiro’o Games was established in 2003 by Olivier Madiba with two of his friends, Yakan Dominique and Waffo Hugues. The name Kiro’o is derived from “kiroho maonno” Swahili for “spiritual vision.” However, establishing and pioneering one of Central Africa’s first indigenous video games was not easy. Aside tackling daily power outages, the company’s business director, Boyogueno Roland, said it was quite difficult to get initial funding because investors were sceptical of the project.

Meet Madiba Oliver, the entrepreneur who owns the first video game company in Africa

As work on Aurion progressed, Madiba’s team posted videos on YouTube and put out a call for investments, offering 300 shares of the company. Along with a Kickstarter campaign, Kiro’o ended up raising $270,000, enough to finish the title. “Africa has its edge,” says one investor, Rodrigue Fouafou, the co-founder and CEO of HartNamtemah, a Canadian firm that invests in African start-ups. “The diaspora supports African products. People want something new, innovative and exotic—this is what Kiro’o Games will offer.”

As the April release date approached, Madiba found that his innovation had also gotten the attention of the U.S. State Department, which selected him to participate in the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship Program (launched by President Obama as part of the Young African Leaders Initiative to invest in the next generation of African leaders).

 “The history of our continent is rich … we took inspiration from local Cameroonian traditions, like the Ngondo festival celebrated by the Sawa people, and we also incorporated symbolism adapted from that of the Akan people of Ghana, specifically the Adinkra writing style,” said Olivier.

Meet Madiba Oliver, the entrepreneur who owns the first video game company in Africa

Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan is set in a world of elemental energies and ancestral powers, where players control Enzo Kori-Odan, an African prince, and his fiancée, Erine. They are victims of a coup by Kori-Odan’s brother-in-law, who exiles them on their wedding and coronation day. The royal couple then travels through a fantasy world, recruiting allies and fighting to regain their rightful command. Players battle amid thatched roofs, lush green settings, percussive music and colorfully robed tribal characters.

Typically, Kiro’o Games aims to expand its operations in the future, with plans to add additional downloadable content after the PC release, and on to making the game available for consoles like PlayStation 4. With the likes of Olivier and emerging companies like Kiro’o, video game design sure has a future in Africa.

“We hope our game will show that there is diversity, but you will have white people in our games, too, and yellow and even blue ones,” Madiba says. “What’s most important is the message: Being African isn’t based on your color; it’s based on your philosophy. It’s how you see the world and what you want to share.”

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