Mohamed Zoghlami is a consultant in business engineering and strategic analysis, passionate about new technologies, animation and comics. Since the Tunisian revolution of 2011, he has worked for the international development of African start-ups. His aim is to celebrate African cultures throughout the world, and to give young people the desire and the means to flourish in creative industries. Mohamed Zoghlami is the "animation and video games" sectoral expert for the Africa2020 Season.
What prompted you to accept the invitation of N’Goné Fall, the general commissioner for the Africa2020 season, to participate in defining programming as a sectoral expert for “animation and video games”?
Africa2020 aims to highlight African cultures, a very important initiative for me as I have been fighting for several years to make the world aware of African content in the creative industries.
It was the personality of N’Goné Fall which made me accept this challenge straight away. She has managed to surround herself with extraordinary people who represent the continent. There have been enough stereotypes, clichés, negative images and approximations: Africa must be presented through an African prism.
The Africa 2020 Season will be multi-disciplinary and pan-African. How do these two aspects fit into your professional practice?
As a specialist in the digital creative industries and the innovative ecosystem of African start-ups, I bring a multidisciplinary vision that ranges from creativity to innovation, from youth entrepreneurship to women’s empowerment, in a context of social impact and inclusion. It was the multi-disciplinary aspect of creative industries—which included technological, innovation and cultural content—that really interested me when we began to develop the ecosystem.
After Tunisia, I quickly became interested in Africa across the board, and it was there that I discovered that there was a whole ecosystem to be discovered and introduced. Africa is an extraordinary reservoir of totally overlooked initiatives, projects, creativity and innovation. I am involved in Canada, Switzerland and Belgium, more or less everywhere, talking about African creativity and its economic interest, amongst other things.
What place does animation and video game hold in Africa?
African youth wants to send back a positive image, which they are in the process of defining and reinventing through video games, animation and comic books. This is what gives rise to this creative buzz: today there are more than 400 million mobile players and a growth rate of more than 11% in certain regions.
One of the most productive sources on the continent is the Afro-futurism movement, adopted by African artists, as well as those working in fashion, visual arts and literature. But it is mainly in video games, animation films and comic books that this movement is gaining momentum. For example, Comic Republic’s highly dynamic team produces many superheroes inspired by African mythology which young Africans can identify with. The idea is to show that we do not need to be white to save the world.
Five broad themes with purposefully poetic titles structure the Africa2020 Season: augmented orality, economy and fabulation, archiving of imaginary stories, fiction and (un)authorised movements, systems of disobedience. Do you have a preference for one of these themes?
The themes of augmented orality around the dissemination of knowledge, social networks, technological innovation and the archiving of imaginary stories resonate most with me.
I have a particular appetite for African history and culture, but also for the continent’s major news topics, whether political, economic, social, environmental or, of course, technological. This is why I have opted for technological innovations, entrepreneurship, and digital creative industries: these are key sectors that are driving Africa forward.
The Africa 2020 Season sets up co-construction mechanisms between African professionals and French partner institutions. What do you think of this principle?
This collaboration between Africa and France is essential for the success of the Africa2020 season. It is also the objective that N’Goné Fall has set us: that Africans present Africa to the French.
With 54 states, 3,000 different languages and different ethnicities, we have a multitude of visions and approaches. It is important to call on local players, who know their professions. Hence this desire for co-construction in order to promote the exchange of know-how, the debate of ideas and structuring projects. Collective intelligence will be at the heart of the Africa2020 season.
You have just organised Afric’Up, the first African start-up summit. Can you tell us about some of the projects you support?
As part of the Smart Africa Alliance, created in 2014 by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, each state leads on a project. For Tunisia, it is the development of the African start-up ecosystem, with afric’Up, an unmissable global event for the main players on the African digital scene.
It is a place of convergence and exchange that brings together investors, experts and project leaders. The aim is to open up new horizons, encourage collaboration and promote skills to encourage the continent’s new digital champions.
In this ecosystem, we have a Tunisian start-up that is developing an application in the field of energy blockchain*, a start-up from Côte d'Ivoire that will provide solar energy in remote villages, a start-up in Ghana that makes it possible to define territoriality and land registry through blockchain*…
* Note: blockchain technology makes it possible to store and transmit information transparently, securely, anonymously and without compromise.
You are about to open Linkub Africa in Tunisia. What is the objective of this pan-African incubator?
The Linkub Africa incubator, based in Bizerte, Tunisia, is an African digital innovation hub. The aim is to encourage the emergence of breakthrough innovations thanks to an original model of collaboration and confrontation. Linkub Africa brings together all the stakeholders and all the components of a “knowledge economy”, an ecosystem of “open innovation”, for Tunisia and for Africa.
Mohamed Zoghlami is the "animation and video games" sectoral expert for the Africa2020 Season. He supports the General Commission of Africa2020 in order to put African professionals in contact with French institutions that are partners to the Africa2020 Season.
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