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Afroes: Anne Githuku-Shongwe

An idea for Afro-centric computer games takes off as a start-up company gets to grips with mobile digital media that delivers positive messages to children across the continent.

Juliet Pitman



Anne Githuku-Shongwe of Afroes

When Anne Githuku-Shongwe decided to end an illustrious 13-year career with the United Nations Development Programme to start an interactive digital media company, her colleagues thought she’d lost her mind. “One even bet me $1 000 I would come back to the UN within six months – I need hardly tell you how that motivated me to succeed,” she says.

An idea is born

But another, more powerful motivator lay behind her vision for Afroes, the company she formed with the express purpose of delivering positive Africa-focused mobile phone entertainment to young people across the continent.

The idea was sparked by conversations with her own children. When her daughter was doing a school project on her role model and couldn’t decide between Hannah Montana and Beyonce, and her son chose Bill Gates as the subject for a project on a global business leader, Githuku-Shongwe began to worry that her children weren’t being exposed to any positive African media content. “I was concerned that their ideas and aspirations for Africa would be coloured by the Western media’s pervasively negative messages about the continent, and I wanted to do something to change that,” she explains. But it was only when her son excitedly started relating things he’d learned while playing the computer game, Civilisations, that the penny dropped. “That’s it! I thought. Kids who play computer games are a captive audience for anything you want to teach them. I knew there had to be a way to harness computer games to deliver positive messages to African children,” she relates.

Learning the market

Githuku-Shongwe knew, however, that consol-based computer games are reserved for the priviliged elite. “If Afroes was to be successful it would have to use mobile phones, the true medium of the masses, to deliver its games,” she says. The market was certainly there – Africa has the highest mobile growth rate in the world, with South Africa alone counting 6,3 million users aged between 10 and 24.

But, having a good idea and a market is only half the battle won. “I’m no techno-geek and I had to learn everything there was to know about computer games and how to tailor them for mobile phones so that they still delivered great graphics. They also had to be low-cost enough for African children to afford and then there was the challenge of how to make them easily accessible,” says Githuku-Shongwe.

Testing the waters

Extensive market research was critical to understanding the needs and limitations of the market and helping her to formulate a business plan. The cost of the games is kept low by employing ‘Game Masters’, working on commission in different communities, who will sell SMS codes that children can use to download the games.

The launch of the first two games has been incredibly successful. The first, Champ’s Chase, was developed as part of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund Champions for Children campaign to raise awareness of the potential risks facing children during the FIFA 2010 World Cup. “Children choose a character which then has to ‘save’ other children from potentially harmful situations and predators,” Githuku-Shongwe explains. The second game, TekaChamps, is a commercial venture. A soccer game with a difference, it’s set in the African townships with which African children will be familiar. “The game is an example of how the medium can be used to engage children in a fun and cool way that builds a positive image of Africa,” she adds.

Overcoming challenges

One of the company’s biggest challenges lies with the network operators, as Githuku-Shongwe explains: “They charge so much for you to make your application available on their network and this makes the games prohibitively expensive. So we’ve had to come up with creative alternatives, like partnering with organisations, big brands and companies who share Afroes’ agenda.” She’s adamant that the business must remain true to its roots, however, and that the games developed should deliver a strongly positive social message that is also Afro-centric. The Champ’s Chase project with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund is a good example of how such partnerships can work.

Accessing assistance

As a start-up entrepreneur Githuku-Shongwe recognises the importance of mentorship and support. She applied for and was recently selected from 600 applicants across Africa as one of the continent’s three finalists in the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, a global programme to recognise and support female entrepreneurs.

Recognition of this kind can be game-changing and Githuku-Shongwe knows it. In October she will be travelling to France for the announcement of the winners and to attend the Women’s Forum Annual Global Meeting, an excellent networking opportunity if nothing else. If she’s among the winners she will receive $20 000 in prize money and mentorship from McKinsey & Co, Cartier and INSEAD. “I’ve already benefited so much from the mentorship and coaching to date and from the contacts I’ve made, and I’m hoping the experience in France will open new doors for me and the business,” she concludes.

Player: Anne Githuku-Shongwe
Est: 2008
Contact +27 12 347 1986,

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton



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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton



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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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