For Uzoma Dunkwu animation industry is not (yet) ready in Africa

We were privileged enough to share some time with Mr. Harry Dunkwu; though, he prefers to be called Uzoma. We could not meet in person but thanks to technology, we could talk about who he is, what inspires him, and what can be done to support him.

So, let us begin by introducing him. Mr. Uzoma Dunkwu an animation director and visual development consultant for the animation industry. He is based in Lagos, Nigeria. Six years ago, he founded Scroll Entertainment, a digital content development and production studio in Nigeria.

His carrier is actually booming right now since Mr. Uzoma Dunkwu is currently producing his own debut animated short film with support from a Hollywood animation producer and a Grammy nominated music composer. He told us that the film will be contending for an Academy Award nomination in 2022.

Meanwhile, he is expected to join the Walt Disney Television Animation development team.

Inspiration and motivations

We wanted to know if he felt more like an artist or an entrepreneur. The answer was very straight forward. “An entrepreneur”. Even if he is working in the art industry.

Because we really fell in love with his designs, we wanted to know about his sources of inspiration. But also, if there was more to it than what we see.

“There is hardly representation of Africans in the cartoons. We need original characters to be able to tell African stories. We need to tell our stories ourselves, in order to change the perception of the world towards us. I represent African culture the best way I can. More generic and positive”.

So, there is definitely more to it!

About taking ownership of the economic potential of that industry, for Africa

From a business standpoint, he definitely has a point, when he says “It’s on us to take ownership of our world and art through intellectual property. Business is all about ownership of our intellectual property”.

A survey available on statista.com shows that animation industry global revenue estimations for 2020, are above 270 billion US$. It is a constant increase since 2017 (254 billion US$). We could not find enough relevant data about African animation market though. But according to Mr Uzoma Dunkwu, the major issue is the funding, and not the talent.

Another study available on researchandmarkets.com mentions that the average budget to produce an animation goes from 20-300 million US$. Mr Uzoma Dunkwu said that it takes approximately 50 million Naira for a ten-minute animation. This is approximately 132,000 U$.

To give you food for thoughts, note that the average budget for a Nollywood movie varies between 25,000-70,000 US$ (Source un.org ), or 9.5-26,6 million naira. The African market presents a huge potential, for obvious reasons. For those interested in the industry, note that 26% of the world population is under 15 years old (that makes 2,08 billion young people). And in Africa, 41% of the population is under 15 years old. That makes 533 million children. Make the calculation…it means that more than 25% of the youth of this planet, lives in Africa.

So, the investment requirements are an issue, yes. And also, is the lack of support from officials, to promote that specific branch of the industry, in African countries.

What can be done to change things for African entrepreneurs in that line of business?

For Mr Uzoma Dunkwu, anything that can give African professionals “access to funding to develop creative passions, train them” is welcomed. He believes that officials in our countries, should consider developing “animation as a discipline” in universities for a start. That should contribute to making it visible to those with money to invest. Because, as much as Africa is attracting international professionals from that industry, “we are getting attention on concept rather than production. Because we lack skills”.

This is of course fulfilling, in terms of global recognition, but from a financial standpoint, that also means that the biggest shares of the revenue will not be in the hands of the African designers.

That said, Mr. Uzoma Dunkwu still believes that “now is the time to attract international investors, because African market is not ready. It is still very young. We do not have much strength in the value chain of animation.” And it is true. Regardless of the tremendous success of Nigerian film industry, it remains a rather small competition to American film industry worldwide.

“I don’t know about Nollywood being an opportunity for animation”. Well, this is something local producers with children growing, watching cartoons from other places in the world, could eventually end up paying attention to. Only time will tell.

Until then, we are confident that the world is just beginning to hear about Mr. Uzoma Dunkwu and his inspiring depiction of the Nigerian and African cultures.

To learn more about his job and buy his creations visit his Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/uzomadunkwu/?hl=fr

Lire cet article en français dans le magazine, page 55