I started as an active member of the comic book creator’s community in 2016. The beginning was difficult, but that’s an article for another time, I want to talk about what this all means in the future and the potential that my country is sleeping on.
I’ve found explaining this comes to hard heads and accepting it even harder heads, so I’ll start with an analogy but I hope everyone can understand, absorb and accept. Somewhere in your country there is a young man with a fever for running. Where he runs isn’t even a thought that passes his mind consciously. He however needs to run. With every muscle that will push him there and all the other muscles that will push him there faster. This young man is good at what he does gaining the interest of others like him. People with the drive to run and to run fast. In schools, he has begun to gather medals that prove his abilities. Medals bestowed upon him by running officials, whom may or not have the proclivity of running themselves but value the talent that is growing before their eyes. But not only their eyes, but people have begun to gather and cheer for these races.
Let’s skip a little far in the story. The young man from before isn’t so young anymore but inversely his hunger for speed is deepening. From challenging the runners in his school, other schools, other regions, other countries he has arrived at a stage in front of the whole world. Things are a little more serious here. He is being paid to run. By winning, and winning so often companies want to associate themselves with this winner. They give him the equipment and money in exchange for having their branding on his uniform. Equipment and money in exchange for this winner standing in front of a camera and say that their brand is also a winner.
But wait there’s more. The officials who time, manage, plan and organize these massive events are paid, the spectators who come from across the world to see first-hand talent incarnate are forking out millions of dollars. From their travel in airfares, their accommodation in the country that is hosting their event, their accumulated pocket spending on trinkets and memorabilia and the actual payment to sit and watch.
I’m not even going to go in to how deep the actual market of athletes goes but I feel like I’ve painted a clear enough picture.
In the last article I used the field of comic books to illustrate parallels; here I will instead use a cartoon. One which is undoubtedly a world recognized figure despite only debuting in 2005. This cartoon figure whose market diversification and brand extension moved from cartoons, to movies, to game shows, to video games and obviously encompasses merchandise in branded clothing, toys and collectables.
This character is Ben 10.
The premise is fairly simple, 10 year old Ben Tennyson acquires an alien watch that allows him to turn into 10 different aliens all while on a summer road trip with his cousin Gwen and granpa Max. Try pitch that summary to any corporate in Zimbabwe (and likely Southern Africa even as far north as Ghana) and you will be welcomed with the purest form of ridicule known to man. Where I’m from the concept of children’s cartoons are called maPopeye (a term given to any animation that isn’t used for advertising, linked to the animations of yesteryear from before animation was a widely known profession.)
For some reason, time and progress hasn’t been enough to dispel these archaic notions. So I’m skeptical to assume that with more time that these societal restrictions will fade. “Humans are experiential and thus struggle to understand something beyond anything they have been through or see themselves.” So I firmly believe it’s through case studies and market analysis that we can crack through the disbelief of potential investors.
That’s all it takes.
A belief that a young man who can draw and has ideas will continue to draw, what he’s drawing doesn’t matter at first. Belief that his talent will grow and others, his peers will recognize him. Belief that the idea will grow beyond the country’s borders.
Before I get too starry eyed about this imaginary person, I would like to highlight the potential benefits of home grown creative properties. If it was not clear before, the overall benefit from this is income. The spending on the actual property is the primary income tier, spending on merchandise as a result of the property is the secondary income tier and the creation of sub-markets is the third and possibly most important tier.
Shells of areas projected to bring in main revenue streams.
As an economy facing upward of 85% unemployment, these tiers provide the opportunity to create jobs at every turn. Retailers with stalls/shops that sell licensed material and are registered tax companies are a massive win for people who are searching for this content and the government that seeks to manage these businesses. But truly it doesn’t stop at the retailers behind a desk in their shop, the delivery trucks transporting this content and their respective drivers, the legal teams that curate, manage and argue for better intellectual property laws of creative properties in Zimbabwe, the advertising companies that develop marketing strategies for this unique product, the assessment and modification of school curriculums strengthening the responsibility of teachers to engage with art as strictly as they do Mathematics, and ultimately the stirring of other creative fields to collaborate more effectively.
My dream is headed from a place that started as a few scribbles on paper to paying actors, film crews, writers, local musicians, graphic artists, animators and beyond for a movie set in Zimbabwe that we can be proud of.