Digital Lab Africa was launched last year by the French Embassy and the French Institute in South Africa as part of their on-going support to creative industries. It has partnered with Trace, Lagardere Studios and other local partners. Russell Southwood talks to Erika Dennis, Regional Head of Media, Film and Music at the French Embassy in South Africa.
Last Sunday the call for proposals to Digital Lab Africa closed with 740 applications:"There's some very, very interesting projects and talent. Such success (in attracting this number of applicants) is based on our relationships with local partners who circulated the call for proposals."
The idea for Digital Lab Africa (http://digilabafrica.com/) came out of seeing that Africa was a market that was changing very fast. There has been a rapid growth of digital services in Africa - particularly on mobile phones - and there is a need for new content "linked to cultural identity and new ways of creating content".
The idea was to link creative innovators with both local mentors and key players in France in five areas: digital music, web creation, virtual reality, animation and video games:"We wanted to connect major markets like France to agile markets like South Africa and of course, other markets across Africa. We also want to connect people to mentors in Africa and France."
But how do create a business model in Africa for cutting edge technologies like virtual reality:"It's changing very fast and I don't have all the answers. In Africa, there's no (consumer) market for VR with a very few exceptions. But there's a company called DBR that is using the restored and digitalized (by INA) Rivonia Trial footage to create a VR experience. It's the anniversary and places like museums will want to buy copies to communicate what it was about."
"The traditional media players and the new players can create content aimed at universities or for private sector companies like communications agencies. There are a few companies that are really good and flexible about what market they address. It's a case-by-case economic model."
By the 26th of March the judges will have whittled entrants down to the last 30. These will pitch at an online event for the final selection. Last year there was a physical pitch at African content market DISCOP but there were difficulties in getting people to pay their own way to attend. By early May the final selection will be made and announced at Cannes this year that also takes place in May. This year there will be 10 (2 per category) instead of 5 winners and they will be able to connect with a mentor, both in Africa and France as they will also be able to get incubation both in Africa and France.
The judging panels are: Virtual Reality: Ingrid Kopp, Electric South (South Africa);Ulrico Grec-Cumbo, Deep VR (South Africa); and Chloé Jarry, Camera Lucida (France). For animation: Stuart Forrest, Triggerfish Animation (South Africa); Eric Reginaud, Ciclic (France); Xavier Kawa-Topor (France); and. Abel Kouamé, Africa Toon (Côte d'Ivoire). For web creation; Heidelinde Blumer, ARTE (France);
And Alexandre Rideau, Keewu Production (Senegal). For digital music: Valentine Gaudin, TRACE (South Africa/France) and Sevi Spanoudi, Black Major (South Africa). For video games: Nicholas Hall - Make Games SA/IESA (South Africa) and Francis Ingrand - SNJV/Plug In Digital (France).
Digital Lab Africa is also running a Digital Content Hub project that consists of the creation of a physical incubator for innovative audio-visual content (animation, virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, holograms, 360 °, web content, video games, applications, series, music ...) located in the Braamfontein district of Johannesburg.
This physical incubator project is being run by Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct, the prestigious South African innovation cluster associated with the University of Wits, in collaboration with key players in the digital and cultural and creative industries (ICC) sector in France. 20 French institutions and key private players are participating in the incubator project : http://www.tshimologong.joburg/