An incubation hub for digital audio-visual content opened on Monday in the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct, in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, through the support of the French development institution Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS).
A three-year €950 000, or R14.5-million, grant by the AFD will enable the Tshimologong precinct to expand its activities to incorporate audio-visual content creation, such as animation, virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, holograms, 360° video, Web content, video games, applications, Web series and music.
This Digital Content Hub will be based at the precinct in Braamfontein and managed by Tshimologong in collaboration with key players in the multimedia and cultural and creative industries sector in France.
Tshimologong Precinct CEO Lesley Williams said the partnership will create market access between French companies and South African start-ups, driving investment opportunities for digital content businesses.
“This level of funding and commitment to South Africa is important. We need this kind of partnership for much-needed skills development in the country.”
The idea of establishing a Digital Content Hub was born from an existing collaboration between Tshimologong and Digital Lab Africa, an initiative launched by IFAS in 2016 to support African start-ups creating multimedia content to realise their projects with the support of French and African companies.
Tshimologong and IFAS have joined forces to integrate the existing Digital Lab Africa system within a new Digital Content Hub physical incubator project.
“The Digital Content Hub ensures the longevity of the Digital Lab Africa and its capacity to develop in Tshimologong, which is a prestigious South African innovation cluster,” said Ambassador of France to South Africa Christophe Farnaud.
“The positioning of a Franco-South African partnership in the heart of Johannesburg is an asset for the development of information and communications technology in Africa, while fostering opportunities to collaborate between our two markets and enhancing French expertise. It is fully in keeping with the embassy's innovation strategy, which favours partnerships between French and South African ecosystems,” he added.
This is the first investment by AFD in the area of digital innovation in Southern Africa and reflects the organisation’s new focus on financing cultural, creative and technology industries as key players in local economic development.
“The cultural and creative industries are capitalising on the tremendous momentum of digital innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa. From fashion to visual arts, from film to music – culture creates jobs, stimulates the economy and enables inclusive and sustainable growth, while helping to better address issues of education, citizenship and the environment,” said AFD Southern Africa regional director Martha Stein-Sochas.
“AFD, by financing the Digital Content Hub, is proud to be associated with Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct and, in doing so, puts innovation and creative industries in the heart of its mission in South Africa,” she added.
The new content incubator project will incorporate training modules focused on content development in Tshimologong’s Skills Development Academy. French institutions will support Tshimologong in developing new curricula, training trainers and arranging exchanges of staff and students between France and South Africa.
Further, the hub will introduce a two-year skills development programme focused on gaming and animation in order to develop a skills pipeline for the creative and digital economy and will integrate Digital Labs Africa into Tshimologong’s existing start-up incubation programme.
Access to digital technologies is spreading fast in Africa where most people access the Internet and digital content on their mobile phones. In this context, the intersection between multimedia and digital technologies is generating unprecedented opportunities for creating fresh, local content for the African market.
“It is estimated that by 2022, there will be more than 36-million pay television subscribers in Africa and that there will be a strong migration of content toward digital and mobile operators with video-on-demand platforms such as Iroko, TRACE Play and ShowMax taking the lead.”
By 2021, Tshimologong is expected to have fully incorporated digital content development into its activities in a self-sustainable manner.
The precinct is also broadening its current partnership base to include South African and French companies with a view to fostering expertise exchange, skills transfer and business opportunities for French and African business.