Interview with Eyr...

Interview with Eyram Tawia, CEO and Co-Founder of Leti Arts

Leti Arts Drives Growth of Video Game Industry in Africa

Eyram Tawia and Wesley Kirinya—two friends brought together by their passion for innovation, creativity, and change—founded Leti Arts in 2009. Their video game development studio is one-of-a-kind—not only in Ghana, but in the continent as a whole.

The founders have encountered limited industry skills and video game development education in the region. Yet they are driven by the belief that they are building a new industry that will support job creation and economic growth in Africa.

Eyram Tawia, CEO and Co-Founder of Leti Arts We met with Eyram Tawia, CEO and Co-Founder of Leti Arts, in Finland, where he participated as one of 30 changemaker entrepreneurs in the Slush Impact Accelerator Program. He spoke with us about creating locally-relevant content and games based on African superheroes.

Q: What motivated you to start Leti Arts?

A: Since the age of eight, I have been addicted to comics and video games. It baffled my mind how these games were made. I also wondered why video games weren’t made in this part of the world. So I was motivated to teach myself.

As I sketched my comics and stories, I realized I was often trying to draw a Superman or Thor. I realized, why can’t I also present African stories in a way that appeals to wide audiences? That seed started germinating. I decided to put my whole life into it and see where it goes.

Q:  What is your vision for Leti Arts?

A: The idea behind Leti Arts is to pioneer a new industry in Sub-Saharan Africa—the gaming industry. Gaming creates employment and revenue for the economy. We want to use ancient legends and folklore and bring them into the twenty-first century.

Africa’s Legends includes heroes from all parts of Africa who fight terrorism, fight pirates on the Kenyan shores, and save young girls in Nigeria and fight Boko Haram. In the long term, we feel that storytelling in fantasy form can influence the thinking of the younger generation and the entire society. We gamify these stories in order to extend their reach and create engagement.

For our franchise, Africa's Legends, we have started with comics and games, but we are thinking big—animation, merchandise, and movies.

Q: What is your company’s biggest challenge?

A: Lack of skills in the market. We want to use local expertise to create games that can compete globally. But we’re facing a challenge. We have to build an industry, not just a company. We must invest and train individuals in order to have people to work at our company.

For example, I started an internship model to expose final-year college students to game development so they will see this as a viable career option. In Ghana or Africa, many don’t know that you can have “game developer” as a job title. They're only familiar with more traditional paths, such as becoming a lawyer or doctor. To expand the exposure of my team, I have also brought in international interns from Amsterdam and India. This is what we are doing to grow the ecosystem.

The gaming industry requires serious investments. We need investors who believe we are the next big thing—the next Marvel. But to me, this goes beyond money. I am doing this out of passion. I strongly believe that when you do something with passion, the money will follow.

Q:  How have you ensured inclusiveness in the gaming industry? For example, engaging more women gamers?

A: I tell them that gaming is not purely technical. The best games are designed with team members with a range of technical skills. Women can either write the stories or code games or both—it’s a multidisciplinary industry.

Q: How has business incubation support in Ghana helped meet your company’s goals?

A:  Significantly. They provided the initial seed funding for my company. They provided linkages to mentors, networks, and global exposure. They provided an opportunity for cross-pollination of ideas across different businesses.  Furthermore, they exposed professionals in the broader entrepreneurship ecosystem to the technology industry and the opportunities it brings.

Q: In five years, where do you see Leti Arts and Africa's Legends?

A:  I see Africa's Legends as a global brand. I want to see Batman battling Shaka Zulu. I see Africa's Legends as icons to fight terrorism. I see Africa's Legends as an animated series on television. I see merchandise. Leti Arts will be the company of the world.

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