Name One International Black African Cartoon Character

'Transformers', 'Voltron', 'Super Ted', 'Danger Mouse, 'Thundercats', 'Battle of the Planets G-Force', the list goes on. Most of us adults who grew up in Africa remember watching those programs when we were children. Actually I should say, most of us who were lucky enough to have regular access to a TV. Those programs helped teach us everything from arithmetic and English, right through to the fighting skills we would need to defeat a very powerful Decepticon robot during an alien invasion in case the need arose. In fact, programs such as Sesame Street helped teach those of us that were lucky enough to watch it general life skills.

Now fast forward a few years. You now have your own young family and you want to watch cartoons with your young children. The current crop of cartoons such as Dora the Explorer and Peppa Pig are great. I love them. Of course there are some annoying ones but that’s all subjective. But what if you want to watch a cartoon or animation that reflects some part of your black and African heritage? A cartoon that portrays a positive picture of Africa? How about one that's available in major African languages so children can learn their mother tongue? You could even be a non African parent who wants to teach your young children about other world cultures.

Can you name one truly international children's program that was conceived and produced in Africa? It's difficult right? This leads to the next question. Why? There are many reasons for this.

These include;

Lack of financial support from the public and private sectors: Banks for example, see animation as a risky venture. In fact in countries like Nigeria banks have traditionally steered clear from supporting the entertainment sector with financial products. They are now talking with the creative sector to see how they can collaborate in the future. Also institutions like the World Bank have pledged funds to help industries such as Nigeria's Nollywood so things are looking up. As animation is a sub sector of this, there should be a trickledown effect in the future.

Lack of support and belief from local broadcasters: Many television networks don't commission such programs. In fact they prefer to import foreign children cartoons. To some degree this situation is understandable.

Lack of artists and technicians in fields such as animation production. We as animators and producers also have to get our game up. And trust me I totally understand the difficult circumstances we work under in many African countries. Having said that there are still companies and people able to risk taking a lead. We need to convince, the public and investors that we are serious.

Lack of support from government: In some countries such as France, companies that produce animations are given encouragement in the form of incentives and funding. They also make sure that all programming on all their stations is about 60% local content. So a kids station can’t show 100% foreign cartoons. Unfortunately this isn't the case in the majority of African countries.

So it is easy to see why there are no cartoon series from Africa that have had global success. However, African animators have decided to tackle this challenge head on. In regions as diverse as Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa and in Diaspora things are changing. Using the internet and new digital production technologies, African artists and companies are producing their own content for the world to see. The future for African animation should be very bright. We just need a few things to fall in place. So all you current and future parents out there, look out! There’s going to be a new voice in the children’s cartoon market soon. And it’ll be an African one.


Posted on April 6, 2011 and filed under Thoughts and Views.