“My vision is to bring rich African stories to a worldwide audience.”
African superheroes are vastly underrepresented in the entertainment industry, and especially within the comic and gaming sectors. Harambean Eyram Akofa Tawia seeks to change that representation with Leti Arts, an African business focused on bringing an authentic Africa to a worldwide audience, through meaningful games and digital comics.
The Challenge – It’s no secret that Western superheroes dominate the comic industry, with U.S. publishers DC and Marvel together comprising of over half the industry in 2014. While diversity in superhero games, movies, and comics is slowly gaining ground with blockbuster hits like Black Panther, African superheroes are still vastly underrepresented. In contemporary Africa, African history and culture has not kept pace with modern formats and genres for telling stories.This had led to a generational gap between the historic and cultural content available to younger generations and content consumed. African youth consume Western content everyday that influences them immensely causing them to drift away from their African roots. And yet it’s important to restore pride in African youth for their heritage and for African youth to grow up believing that Africans can be superheroes, too.
The Process – Tawia’s love for comics and computer games helped to spur his interest in learning to program back in junior high school. At that age, he always wondered why there was a lack of African superheroes. That then became his driving force to create interactive digital content centered around African history and culture. He co-founded the African business Leti Arts with Wesley Kirinya in 2009, which creates meaningful games and digital comics that revive Africa’s superheroes and introduce them in a way that is contemporary and relatable to African youth. The first game to launch, Africa’s Legends, features superheroes based on historical and folklore figures from all over the continent that have been brought into the 21st century to fight present day African issues. In Tawia’s bit to solve the fragmentation of content, Leti Arts has created a hub for all African creatives to deposit their content for easy access. His team sees this initiative as redefining entertainment and uniting Africa through comics and games.
The Result – For Tawia, success is making African superheroes household names worldwide and seeing the African game industry strive. Leti Arts’ successful IP, Africa’s Legends, has more than 50,000 downloads. This African business has won several awards and has been featured on CNN, Forbes, TechCrunch, and other prominent media outlets. Leti Arts has also worked with renowned bodies such as the World Bank, Jhpiego, Intel, Google and MTN to create civic education games and to gamify some of their existing processes. Tawia envisions that by expanding Leti Arts to include merchandise and animated series, jobs will be created and academia will start developing courses related to this subject matter. To remedy the scarcity of African game development skill sets, he initiated an internship program that has trained over 150 students from junior to tertiary levels, with many of them going on to create their own games and comics. Leti Arts has since launched consulting services and is creating phase two of the Africa’s Legend game dubbed Reawakening, which will be launched early next year.
“We are not just creating a company, we are building a whole new industry. Nobody has had job titles like ‘lead illustrator’ or ‘game developer’ in Ghana before. Now when I go to conferences, I meet lawyers, doctors, I say I’m a ‘game developer’ – it feels good.”
ABOUT EYRAM TAWIA
Creating an African Business to Pioneer Africa’s Gaming Industry
Eyram Akofa Tawia holds a Computer Science degree from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology in Kumasi, Ghana and studied at the Meltwater Foundation, where he was a Software Teaching Fellow. He co-founded the African business Leti Arts in 2009 and received several recognitions for his contributions towards the African game industry, including ‘Most Heart for Africa’ an African Entrepreneurship Award in 2015. He also led Leti Arts to win the Vodafone Ghana and Global App Star 2014 competition with their Africa’s Legends app and the Africa Entrepreneurship Award. Tawia was selected as one of Coca Cola’s 60 Young Achievers to commemorate Ghana’s 60th independence and was Ghana’s representative for the U.S – Africa Business Leaders Summit in Washington.
Tawia published his biography Uncompromising Passion: The Humble Beginnings of an African Video Games Industry in 2016, which documents his journey in the comics and gaming industries. He was awarded the Mandela Washington Fellowship in 2017, with which he will leverage knowledge and connections gained as Leti Arts scales across Africa.
“I am strongly convinced that Africa will make a salient contribution to the world by changing the African narrative through digital games and comics.”
As someone who has a vested interest in game academia, Tawia preaches STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) with his annual internships. His vision is to bring rich African stories to a worldwide audience, through comic and game franchises influenced by African folklore. By doing this, he wants to prove that game development is a viable industry that if nurtured and given the chance, will help boost Africa’s GDP as it does for countries like Finland.
I AM A HARAMBEAN
Eyram Tawia views Harambe as a hub of knowledge: