FOUNDER (S) – Anne Githuku-Shongwe
INSPIRATION TO START THE BUSINESS.
Afroes (the name comes from a play on the words African Heroes and Heroines), was founded by Anne Githuku Shongwe and was inspired by conversations with her own children. She worried that they weren’t being exposed to any positive African media content and that their ideas and aspirations for Africa were being influenced by the Western media’s pervasively negative messages about the continent.
Anne wanted to do something to change this situation. But it was whilst she observed her son excitedly started relating things he’d learned while playing the computer game, Civilisations, that she realised children who play computer games are a captive audience for anything you want to teach them. She knew from that point onwards that she needed to harness the power of computer games to deliver positive messages to African children.
BACKGROUND OF THE FOUNDER
Prior to establishing Afroes, Anne worked as an International Development professional with over 20 years of social and economic development experience working with the United Nations and Management Consulting firms across Africa, Asia and the United States. Ann has a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Lawrence University, New York, a Masters degree in International Development from The American University, Washington DC and a post-graduate Certificate in Management Development from Jones International University in conjunction with the UNDP.
Anne has received training from mLab Kenya training in business plan development, and marketing and sales. She has also received entrepreneurship training from the Schwab Foundation, Cartier Women’s initiative, Unreasonable Institute Fellowship.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BUSINESS
Afroes aims to inspire, impact, and empower young people in Africa and change the mind-sets of young Africans by developing leadership and problem-solving skills through innovative and engaging digital games. The company has designed and implemented several social change games including: MORABA, an award-winning mobile-game that addresses difficult questions on Gender-based Violence; ChampChase, which addresses issues of child abuse and child protection; and HAKI II, a game series built for Kenya by Kenyans to address environmental conservation and civil rights issues facing the society focusing on the run-up to elections. The Afroes value proposition is uniquely designed for the African mobile market to create compelling and relevant interactive content but also to ensure deep reach into the hands and pockets of the targeted user.
As Afroes builds relevant content for the youth market, it sought creative approaches to overcome content distribution challenges, ensure adoption and ultimately monitor and evaluate impact. Building on previous projects, Afroes has further developed the concept of community-based youth representatives for distribution and data gathering. The Afroes Mobiv8 Network is a growing team of community-based reps who are contracted to ensure distribution of the mobile learning content in the greater community where they are based as well as to gather data and insights.
This business-to-business model has been the main source of Afroes revenue to date. Another source of revenue has been in-game advertising through Nokia with HAKI in Kenya. Elsewhere, Afroes has begun the process of licensing its mobile content to Ministries of Education and NGOs in Africa but now also in other regions of the world. The company has won the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the year award in 2013. Afroes Also won the third-place prize of $8,000 at the 5th Global Forum on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which took place in London this past June. The company was chosen from among 50 others that had entered the vaunted Dragon’s Den Pitching Competition, where contestants are judged on criteria such as commercial potential, long-term success and impact upon society. That win, along with positive feedback generated from Afroes game users, has prompted Anne to continue developing content which will exert a positive effect on Africa’s youth for years to come.
- Accessing finance – very few organisations wanted to support this innovative way of addressing youth
- Financial institutions and government regulations were not very friendly towards social enterprises and small business – e.g. limited financial support or tax breaks.
- Convincing programme/ solution stakeholders to adopt an alternative media/ mediums, strategy and methodology to reach and engage their traditional intended audience as well as appeal to a new demographic using social issue-based content advocates, stakeholders and consumers.
The founder states “Throughout the development of our games we work and co-create with our target audience ensuring that the games we develop are having the social impact we want.” Through the back end of their games, they are able to track data and analytics that can be used to influence policy. With their game MORABA they have been able to track the sexual education of young South Africans highlighting areas where there is a lack of knowledge e.g. the age of consent and then using this to influence the ministry of education to focus on the basics of sexual education.
Afroes has designed and implemented several other social change games including ChampChase, which addresses issues of child abuse and child protection; and HAKI, a game series built for Kenya by Kenyans to address civil rights issues facing the society.
POTENTIAL FOR SCALE-UP
Anne says “All our games and our Afroes Way of human-centred design are all scalable across the globe. The platforms we have developed allow us to change the content in response to topical issues and locations. We have streamlined our strategy to enhance the current games catalogue and from our research, we have decided to target specific areas that affect African Youth such as Jobs and Health.”