Kenya’s Kukua lands landmark US$6 million investment deal to create a kids’ edutainment brand

1 July 2022

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In what is probably the first deal of its kind at this scale, Nairobi-based edutainment company Kukua has raised US$6 million to build a digitally-focused brand based on its animated superhero Super Sema, a 10 year old girl. Russell Southwood looks at why the deal is so significant and its chances of success.

The current investment round was led by China’s Tencent and Alchimia. The latter is an Italian VC firm that focuses on early and growth stage investments. Among other things it has invested in Virgin’s Hyperloop One and e-commerce enabler Quicup. In 2018. the company raised $2.5 million seed from Eghosa Omoigui’s Lagos-based EchoVC and Auxxo Female Catalyst has also been an investor.

In terms of attracting ‘A team casting’, it has put together an interesting team. It was executive produced by Kenyan Hollywood star Lupita Nyong’o, who is also a shareholder in the company. It also has as its Creative Director Claudia Lloyd who has a long track-record of creating children’s and pre-school animation.

Super Sema follows the world-changing adventures of an extraordinary young 10 year old girl Sema and her twin brother MB on their mission to protect their African town of Dunia from the villainous Tobor. Together they use science, tech, engineering, arts and maths to create inventions from a secret lab to fight this evil robot villain - the town’s ruler - and his minions.

Kukua’s digital first strategy has initially focused on You Tube. It bought the rights to the first season of Super Sema for its YouTube Originals Channel in March 2021 and it got more than 40 million views.

The second season has been commissioned by YouTube Originals and premiered this month. In audience terms, it’s managing to hit the diaspora ‘sweet spot’ which generates the much needed higher (than Africa) ad revenues and through this its audience numbers should drive much-needed income. 60% of its audiences are from the USA. It will need those revenues because animation, particularly at this scale, is not cheap.

However, it’s not ignoring broadcast TV and has been shown on Citizen TV in Kenya and SABC in South Africa. More sales of this kind would be easy to achieve across the continent but this will generate ‘eyeballs’ and awareness but not contribute much in terms of income.

The financial hurdles are considerable and Kukua will have to keep producing both it seasons and other future products. But the fact that investors have taken the risk shows that digital has created a world in which African content companies might finally work out how to access both diaspora and other international revenues.

In Brief

Kenya: The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) has acquired broadcasting rights to air various sporting events locally and internationally scheduled between July 2022 and May 2023. According to the broadcaster, the sporting events will include the FIBA Africa World Cup qualifiers in Egypt from 1 July to 3 2022, the World Athletics Championships in Eugene from 15 July 2022, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham from 28 July to 8 August 2022, and the World Under 20 Athletics, in Cali, from 1 August to 6 2022. Other events include Rugby League 3 Test matches between Kenya and South Africa from July to October 2022, World Half Marathon in Yangzhou, China, from 13 November 2022, FIFA World Cup in Qatar from 21 November to 18 December 2022, and the DFP Poka in Germany from 22 August 2022 to May 2023.

South Africa: eMedia Investments has said that it is aware that it needs to vacate the analogue spectrum bands for South Africa to progress. This comes after the broadcaster won a comprehensive victory in the constitutional court against communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni — halting her plans to switch off analogue television broadcasts in South Africa on 30 June 2022. In a statement responding to the court’s ruling, Khalik Sherrif, CEO of eMedia Investments, acknowledged that the continued broadcasting of analogue television in South Africa is affecting technological advancement as it is preventing telecommunications operators from access to crucial frequencies.

Nigeria: Less than a week after its release, Glamour Girls, an original story produced by the Play Network Studios, has become the first Nollywood film to rank in the top ten Netflix global charts.

Namibia: The Director-General of Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), Stanley Similo, has called on the corporate sector to invest in creating local content.

Ghana: Ghana’s broadcast station owners and operators must begin the process of reducing the menace of unsanctioned television content in the country, says the Satellite Channels Operators Association of Ghana (SCOAG). The SCOAG – the umbrella association that looks after satellite broadcasters in Ghana – says it has observed how most television channels have moved away from the tenet broadcasting and resorted to the broadcast of what SCOAG deemed “illegitimate contents.” In a statement, the association said, “As a human institution, we cannot say we are without flaws and have performed adequately to the admiration of all stakeholders involved in the effective control of the industry and the public of whom we are much concerned about. “The association has established a task force with the mandate of examining contents on the satellite space to ensure the public is offered safe contents for all ages,” the statement read. Furthermore, the SCOAG has asked its members to put a definite end to the broadcast of television content that is “characterised by dishonest/misleading statements.” As a result, the association has advised all members to stop the sale of airtime to content owners whose programs include the display of money with immediate effect. The Satellite Channels Operators Association of Ghana has thus directed that the broadcast of fetish content depicting grisly images should be “halted” immediately.

YouTube, has announced that applications for its Black Voices Fund, Class of 2023, are now open. The fund was created in 2020 in order to recognise and equip black creators, artists and songwriters with the resources and support they need to thrive on the platform. The program has welcomed over 300 grantees from Australia, Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and the United States. It includes musicians, comedians, beauty entrepreneurs, activists, poets, parents, personal trainers, photographers, and gamers. YouTube Lead for Nigeria, Solafunmi Sosanya, said “The creator’s community in Africa is filled with talented, brilliant, passionate, and driven creatives, and we’re honoured to equip these talented creators and artists with additional resources to match their drive. “YouTube has always tried to facilitate the rise of diverse voices, all-inclusive of gender and race. Since its inception in 2020, the Black Voices Fund has been able to amplify the perspectives and experiences of these diverse creators.”

Ghana: More than 40 journalists of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, GBC, have undergone training on the need to build better journalism as part of GBC’s transformative agenda.