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Tsitso puts out digital Morabaraba

A digital version of Morabaraba, a traditional cow herder’s game has been developed by a Tsitso Tlali at the Stellenbosch University and will soon be available on the web, as well as the iOS, Android and BlackBerry 10 platforms.

MRBRB is a digital version of Morabaraba, a traditional cow herder’s game played in the rural areas of Southern Africa. In the game, each player has 12 playing pieces (or ‚’cows’) which must be arranged on a board to form groups of three (known as ‚’mills’). Once a player has formed a mill, they are able to take an opponent’s cows.

Ex Matie student Tsitso Tlali grew up playing Morabaraba in the hills of Lesotho. He developed the game while

studying towards his Applied Mathematics degree at Stellenbosch University and subsequently approached InnovUS for assistance with commercialising the game. ‚”We immediately saw the potential in Tsitso’s idea and offered to help ‚’incubate’ his idea by providing office space, legal and business mentoring, as well as funding,‚” says InnovUS business developer, Saberi Marais.

After a short incubation period, MRBRB was successfully licensed to InnoVartis, a technology company founded by technology entrepreneur Yongama Skweyiya, who is also a former InnovUS staff member. The licensing agreement was concluded in late April this year. ‚”InnovUS was responsible for managing the licensing process and handling the negotiations with InnoVartis on behalf of Tsitso and the University,‚” says Saberi. ‚”The process was aided by the parties’ common goal and understanding regarding the outstanding development of the technology and the commercial outcomes that we wanted to achieve.‚”

MRBRB now falls under uBi Gaming, InnoVartis’ gaming division which is dedicated to the development of digital forms of traditional African games. As part of the licensing agreement, Tsitso was offered a permanent position at uBi Gaming, where he now leads the development of all the games within this portfolio.

‚”InnovUS is extremely proud that another one of our entrepreneurs has achieved success at such a young age. As a University, we have world class entrepreneurs and researchers who produce intellectual property of the highest standard. By concluding research contracts and licensing agreements to protect this intellectual property, we are able to work closely with some of the brightest minds in South Africa. It is truly a privilege to work with our entrepreneurs and researchers,‚” says Anita Nel, CEO of InnovUS.

‚”MRBRB is currently at the public testing phase in a web app format and had registered over 500 plays by the end of April 2013,‚” says Tsitso. The mobile version of the game is due out by the end of the year. ‚”I was fortunate enough to be selected by web FWD to develop, using their new HTML 5 technologies, which I am using to build the gross MRBRB platform for iOS, Android, BB10 and Mozilla Firefox OS,‚” he adds.

The aim is to eventually commercialise MRBRB. ‚”The team at InnoVartis has been marketing MRBRB to games publishers around the world. In April, they visited London to promote the game to high profile publishing platforms like Zynga,‚” says Tsitso.

One thing is sure MRBRB has come a long way from Tsitso Tlali’s days as a third year Applied Mathematics student at Stellenbosch. ‚”InnovUS has been incredibly helpful to me. They provided the foundation I needed to get my idea off the ground and to eventually successfully license it to a leading South African technology company,‚” he says.


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