George Odongo Ahere, is the CEO, Co-Founder and Lead Developer, Weza Interactive Entertainment, a startup gaming company in Kenya. His goals? Bring the gaming industry to the African market to empower, educate and entertain. But also to share the African narrative through interactive experiences, he believes that this will allow global appreciation and understanding of African values, culture and history.
George was also a laureate of the French Tech Ticket 2017 which he says
“gave us the opportunity to work and interact with some of the top game development companies in Europe and Africa. We grew tremendously thanks what France was able to offer from funding to coaching and access to international development. We are now looking to share our skills, knowledge and experience globally”
We met with George to hear more about his vibrant success story.
What sparked off the idea for the creation of Weza interactive entertainment?
The idea sparked from the core belief in Africa’s untapped potential, this also inspired our name as Weza which means ability or potential in Swahili. We saw this in the video gaming Market/Industry and decided to be the key to unlock it. We also wanted to create games that would empower and enable our players to experience Africa like never before. Another reason was also the luck of African games. I guess you could say Weza was sparked off by lots of ideas. The games we wanted to make had to embody these ideas so we decided on our three Es – Empower, Educate and Entertain . These became our core values.
What are your goals and your challenges?
We want to bring the gaming industry to the African market. The increase use of smartphone and the wide use of mobile money on the continent are key indicators that the time is right. We also want activate the potential of Africa through gaming, we already see this worldwide by the many jobs it creates to the stories it has enabled us to share and the amazing technologies it has spawned like VR and AR. We also want to share the African narrative through interactive experiences, we believe this will allow global appreciation and understanding of African values, culture and history.
However, we do have challenges. First since we’re one of the first companies to do this means there is no data or best practices to go off. We are basically learning on the job. This means we have to create new systems or develop networks for basic things like marketing, distribution, monetization. So at the end of the day we need to develop many games and test strategies till we find the best fit. Plus in Kenya where we come from, there isn’t much focus on creative industries So funding is another challenge we were facing.
As a 2017 laureate what has the French Tech Ticket brought to Weza?
We gained a lot from the French Tech Ticket. First of all the funding that allowed us to complete development of our flagship product “Mzito”. We also managed to gather major market responses on the game’s user experience and gameplay content and improve this with feedback from both our beta users, and experts at Plaine Image our French Tech incubator and 3D Duo a gaming studio in Lille.
In terms of international visibility and access we were also invited to speak at StartupBRICS – an event on emerging markets in East Africa. We also attended the Gamescom event in Cologne, Germany and were able to interact with various game publishers and present the Mzito Universe. We were amongst the chosen few picked to be part of the Goethe Institute game mixer Jo’Burg (South Africa). We were also chosen to pitch at the Liquid Launch pad during AfricaCom. The competition chose top Entertainment startups in Africa seen as the future of the continents entertainment. We were Semi Finalists of Protopitch Europe – a pitch competition for Digital and Creative start-ups.
In November 2017 we were able to complete the development of Mzito and release it on Android platform and 2 months later on Apple devices . By the end of 2017 we were able to get over 4,000 downloads after only a month after release on all our distribution platforms.
All this and more could never have been possible without the French Tech Ticket which has really enabled us to take off and internationally too. It gave us the opportunity to be coached and mentored by great French Tech experts, work and interact with some of the top game development companies in Europe and Africa. We grew tremendously and are looking to share our skills, knowledge and experience globally.
Where are you heading next?
We are already prototyping our next game at the moment. This will introduce the second phase of the Mzito universe and expand the narrative. We also plan to work on collaborative projects with other companies and institutions. We can’t build the African market on our own so this very important to us. So you can expect more, expect bigger and expect better games from Weza Interactive Entertainment, coming soon!