One of the most innovative virtual reality exhibitions that the African continent has seen is to run at the Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg from 29 to 31 October.
Viewers will be able to step inside a number of 360-degree mini universes. African artists and filmmakers will also get the chance to engage with the new technology in a virtual reality workshop and create new footage.
From following a 12-year old Syrian refugee from a camp in Jordan in “Clouds Over Sidra” to joining a fantasy land of mutant creatures in “Kaiju Fury!” (both created by Gabo Arora and Chris Milk), the show entitled New Dimensions: A Virtual Reality Exhibition, the show promises to build a firm foundation for a pan-African multimedia platform for the continent. It is free and open to the public.
The project is part of the wider African Futures Festival, organised by the Goethe-Institut . African Futures and explores the continent’s engagement with ideas around the future through artistic expression in literature, fine arts, performance, music and film. The virtual reality show is curated by Ingrid Kopp and Steven Markowitz with further support from Blue Ice Docs and SDK Digital Lab.
In a closed workshop, the use of 360-degree audio-visual software accessed by viewers through state-of-the-art headsets will also be experimented with by well known film-makers, writers, animators and other artists from across Africa from 24 to 27 October 2015, before the exhibition opens.
The aim of the workshop is to deepen and expand the African footprint, according to the exhibition organisers – Big World Cinema and the Goethe Institut, who say that this will be followed up by the opportunity for participants to be commissioned to produce a piece in their country for exhibition across Africa and to showcase at various international festivals.
According to the organisers, virtual reality can be used to heal, escape, entertain, inform, enrich, inspire and educate its virtual inhabitants by transporting them into different worlds. Until now, the vast majority of such projects have been produced outside Africa and the narratives have largely been seen through Western eyes.
For example, at the exhibition, In Strangers with Patrick Watson (created by Felix Lajerunesse, Paul Raphael, Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski) viewers get to share intimate moments with the celebrated Canadian musician Patrick Watson at work in his studio. While in Way To Go (by Vincent Morisset) they can dance with their own (Western) destiny in an interactive voyage of self-discovery.
As Steven Markovitz explains, “the continent now runs the risk of falling behind unless it starts to innovate its own virtual reality experiences. It must start to nurture and promote its own truly unique journey in all its multi-pronged glory. We are therefore seeking not just to showcase virtual reality but to build VR capacity among its African writers, photographers, film-directors, poets – to create a vibrant platform for the continent.”
Taking part in the workshop from Kenya will be Ng’endo Mukii, an award-winning film director most well-known for her documentary Yellow Fever on African women’s ideals of beauty, collaborating with acclaimed 3D animator Andrew Kaggia from Nairobi, who has worked on numerous popular television shows.
Also participating from Kenya will be prominent film director Jim Chuchu, whose latest award-winning film Stories of Our Lives, was banned in his home country for “promoting homosexuality” but is soon to be screened in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
South Africa,will be represented by Bogosi Sekhukhuni, a renowned conceptual artist and creative director selected by the Mail and Guardian newspaper as one of the country’s Top 200 Young South Africans .
Paul Sika from the Ivory Coast,is going to fuse ground-breaking photography , filmmaking and digital techniques, collaborating with fellow Ivorian Brissi Ziagnon, a leading web and graphic designer artist and software designer.
From Ghana, Jonathan Dotse, an Afrofuturist and writer will be collaborating with photographer and film-maker Kabiru Seidu who says that his interest in the field of virtual reality stems from his desire to recreate African history and imagine possible futures. The two Ghanaian artists recently formed NubianVR, an Accra-based virtual reality studio which produced Pandora, their first 360 degree short film which is being showcased at the exhibition.
From Senegal, avant-garde fashion designer Selly Raby Kane, known for her unbridled visual creativity and artistic influences, will collaborate with Moustapha Diop, a leading 3D graphic illustrator with a background in animation and passion for artistic creativity.
“If you want to have any idea of the world that is coming, the world ahead of us look at Africa,” says Afropolitan author and critic Achille Mbembe.
While the future may not be ours to hold, who better to push the boundaries forward, than experimental artists across the continent whose unique expressions of culture and creation help to define, enrich and restore the complex reality that makes up African lives.
Africa phones go flat
Africa’s mobile phone market declined 2.1% quarter on quarter in Q3 2018 according to the latest figures from IDC.
The global technology research and consulting firm newly released Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows overall shipments for the quarter totalled 52.6 million units, with feature phone shipments falling 2.7% QoQ and smartphone shipments declining 1.3% over the same period.
Transsion brands (Tecno, Infinix, and Itel) led the feature phone space in Q3 2018, with a combined unit share of 58.2%. Nokia was next in line with 11.7% share. Transsion, Samsung, and Huawei dominated the smartphone space with respective unit shares of 34.9%, 21.7%, and 10.2%. However, in value terms, Samsung led the smartphone market with 37.2% share, followed by Transsion (21.0%) and Huawei (13.0%).
There were differing fortunes in the region’s three major markets, with Nigeria suffering a heavy 11.6% QoQ decline in mobile phone shipments, while South Africa and Kenya saw respective QoQ growth of 8.5% and 7.9% in Q3 2018.
“The decline in Nigeria stemmed from a slowdown in government spending, ongoing warfare in the country’s northern states, and market uncertainty in the lead up to elections,” says George Mbuthia, a research analyst at IDC. “In South Africa, the market’s growth was spurred by the penetration of low-end devices from brands such as Mobicel, Mint, and Nokia, while the launch of entry-level smartphones helped drive growth in Kenya despite increases in taxes and fuel prices placing a significant burden on disposable income in the country.”
While feature phones remain steadfastly popular across Africa, particularly in more rural areas, consumers are increasingly being attracted by smartphone offerings from Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, Oppo, and Huawei, which are actively targeting feature-oriented customers at more economical price points.
“There is a new wave of Chinese brands aggressively pursuing growth opportunities in the region, while the more-established Huawei is also accelerating its marketing efforts and expanding its distribution budget,” says Ramazan Yavuz, a research manager at IDC. “These brands have quickly progressed along the learning curve and evolved their offerings to perfectly reflect the realities of the region by addressing the diverse pricing and feature needs of the consumer base.”
Looking ahead, IDC expects Africa’s overall mobile phone market to reach 58 million units in Q4 2018, spurred by the festive season and online consumer events such as Black Friday. The introduction of more affordable smartphones in the African market will help drive progress in this space over the coming quarters, while the share of feature phones will decline steadily as the transition to smartphones gathers momentum.
Mobile money to cross borders
Orange and MTN launch pan-African mobile money interoperability to scale up mobile financial services across Africa.
Two of Africa’s largest mobile operators and mobile money providers, Orange Group and MTN Group, today announced a joint venture, Mowali (mobile wallet interoperability), to enable interoperable payments across the continent. Mowali makes it possible to send money between mobile money accounts issued by any mobile money provider, in real time and at low cost.
Mowali will immediately benefit from the reach of MTN Mobile Money and Orange Money, bringing together over 100 million mobile money accounts and mobile money operations in 22 of sub-Saharan Africa’s 46 markets. Mowali is ready to enable interoperability between digital financial service providers beyond MTN and Orange operations and markets, to support the existing 338 million mobile money accounts in Africa.
Mowali is a digital payment infrastructure that connects financial service providers and customers in one inclusive network. It functions as an industry utility, open to any mobile money provider in Africa, including banks, money transfer operators and other financial service providers.
The objective of Mowali is to increase the usage of mobile money by consumers and merchants. Mowali enables money to circulate freely between mobile money accounts from any operators in all countries. From the customer’s point of view, this means “I can pay or receive money anywhere from my mobile account regardless of my operator”. The system will unlock further innovation in the digital financial space within the continent.
For Stéphane Richard, Chairman & CEO of Orange, “by providing full interoperability between platforms, Mowali will provide an important step forward that will allow mobile money to become a universal means of payment in Africa. Increasing financial inclusion through the use of digital technology is an essential element in furthering the economic development of Africa, particularly for more isolated communities. This solution embodies Orange’s ambition to be a leading player in the digital transformation of the continent. By joining forces with another of Africa’s market leaders, MTN, we aim to accelerate the pace of this transformation in a way that will change the lives of our customers by providing them with simpler, safer and more advantageous services. “
“One of MTN’s goals is to accelerate the penetration of mobile financial services in Africa, Mowali is one such vehicle that will help us achieve that objective. Furthermore, co-operation and partnerships that help us accelerate the pace of development and overcome some of the scale, scope and complexity of challenges that society faces are key. This partnership with Orange is therefore an important step in helping us play a meaningful role in supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals related to eliminating extreme poverty and enhancing socio-economic development in the markets we operate in and beyond. Thus giving our customers access to a bright, digital future.” said Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO of MTN.
The GSMA supports the Mowali initiative as interoperability at this scale is a key accelerator for both financial inclusion and Mobile Money usability across Africa. “Today, there are over 690 million mobile money accounts around the world. Mobile money services have become an essential, life-changing tool across Africa, providing access to safe and secure financial services but also to energy, health, education and employment opportunities. The creation of Mowali will help to further transform mobile financial services throughout the African region. It demonstrates the mobile industry’s continued leadership and commitment to driving financial inclusion and economic empowerment through industry collaboration. The GSMA is proud to support its development,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA.
“Interoperability of digital payments has been the toughest hurdle for the financial services industry to overcome, in support of financial inclusion. With Mowali, Orange and MTN deliver a solution that will enable them, and other companies, to scale digital financial services across Africa, faster, to everyone—including the poor,” said Kosta Peric, deputy director of Financial Services for the Poor, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “This is a signal that a new wave of innovation, which can help alleviate poverty and drive economic opportunity, is coming. We’re pleased to see an implementation of Mojaloop—an open source payment platform available to operators across the sector—help achieve that.”