Future of Tanzania’s video game industry
United Republic of Tanzania has some of Africa’s most tech savvy youths and in urban areas, most of them are engaging in video games. The strong economic growth has seen many of them afford to purchase video game consoles. Of even greater structural benefits for the industry is the simultaneous explosion of apps-based mobile casual games play, based on the smartphone platform and then also the tablet.I have been tracking the fortunes of this booming industry. Much has been growing and many green shoots have come after the storm.The statistics tell a stark story of destruction of value. The industry has transformed its revenue base and created a balance between business models.Winners emerging from the creative destruction are small scale businesses that offer video game services in cities like Dar Es Salaam, Mwanza, Arusha and Moshi. Such business and many others out there represent the reassertion of a vibrant development scene characterised by a range of business models and diverse approaches to the craft of making money out of video games.Many of the business I have talked to in the past emphasised to me that the shift in their business approach meant they enjoyed greater creative control and autonomy.Tanzanian policy making and support for local video games business has been intermittent, half-hearted and often poorly targeted but they are better than in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa by far.Concrete policy and program commitments at the regional level especially in regions have supported local developers and seen the survival of games scene concentrated in Dar Es Salaam.
Many of the Tanzanian video gaming business studied in past research emphasised the favourable regulatory and taxation frameworks enjoyed by similar business in other countries. They proposed that the lack of similar frameworks and schemes in Tanzania meant that they faced further competitive constraints in an already turbulent and rapidly changing market. Tanzania can learn from more mature markets, including Nigeria and Egypt. Nigerian game developers businesses benefit from a range of programs offering tax credits, employment incentives and grants on a provincial basis.Rather than focusing on attracting international companies to Tanzania, as developers involved in developing of local games suggest, it is as important to consider how home-grown companies can be supported to grow sustainable businesses. Developers are passionate about their businesses’ capacity to employ Tanzanian developers.Taxation frameworks and other production assistance initiatives can be devised that both attract overseas businesses and encourage locals.While born global, trade exposed sectors such as games will inevitably be affected by the Tanzanian Shilling exchange rate, the fundamental reason why overseas games companies may establish operations in Tanzania has to do with the strength of the talent pool. Keeping the talent pool strong, and refreshing it from quality education and training programs, is the most effective, long-term way Tanzania government can contribute.Games talent is very transferable to other sectors.My research shows clear trend differences in the games cultures of Nairobi, Dar Es Salaam and Kampala. In Nairobi, games talent is often an input into digital content and applications. This helps grow domestic industries which have more stable demand profiles than the highly volatile and massively oversupplied games consumption markets. A recent initiative, a shared working space that supports small games enterprises. The aim is to foster an environment of business sustainability. Tanzanian government policy should support such innovative ventures and hubs that pull small businesses and their support enterprises together across the country.