What’s wrong with being a plucky hero running from demon monkeys or a glamourous model in dress up games? Players get sucked into worlds full of violence and unhealthy body images, according to Jay Shapiro, co-founder of Kenya-based Usiku Games.
The Canadian entrepreneur hopes to shake up the games market in Kenya – and Africa – by offering not only the “adrenaline rush” of competing to win, but also subtle messaging on relatable themes like conservation, climate change and culture.
“When was the last time you saw an African hero in a video game?” Shapiro asked ahead of the Dec. 14 official opening of Usiku Games offices and the Nairobi Game Development Centre, a high-tech co-working space also created by Shapiro.
“We looked at how can we make games that are unlike what’s out there at the moment. That are made in Africa, for Africa, with African heroes in African environments … so that when somebody plays it, they see themselves reflected in the game.”
Usiku Games has so far developed 10 brain-teasing and trivia games for Africa’s mobile phone users aimed at fostering a #GamingForGood culture, with scenarios where the player has to save lions from poachers or solve traffic congestion.
The game “Turkana” – named after Kenya’s arid northwestern county – allows players to direct water from the Kawalasee River to a farm while in “Jam Noma” they get to drive a local matatu minibus and navigate congestion to complete the journey.
The company, which has 16 staff, also employs youths from Nairobi’s Kibera – a sprawling informal settlement housing more than 200,000 people – to provide the voices and produce the rap music for the games in English, Swahili and local slang, Sheng.
Other games the company is developing including “Seedballs” a reforestation game where the player has to drop seeds at targets on the ground, and “BeYOUtiful” which is a dress up game for girls with African characters.
“These dress up games for preteen girls are very popular, but every one is them has a white woman in her 20s with ‘Barbiesque’ curves that are impossible to attain,” said Shapiro.
“If I’m a little Kenyan girl playing this game, the game is subliminally telling me that the standard for beauty is this blonde, white, skinny woman. We think that’s wrong.”
The games are currently free but Usiku Games plans to charge users about 10 shillings ($0.10) to play a game in future, with the winner earning coins – some of which can be converted to cash in a mobile savings account to pay school or medical fees.
“It’s great Usiku Games is focusing on socially responsible bite-sized games,” said Gautam Shah, founder of Internet of Elephants which makes conservation games, adding that most popular games focus on subject matter that is far from Africa.
“I think their success will rely on how relatable these games are to local users.”
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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021
World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.
“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.
He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.
The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.
People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.
For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.
Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.
“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.
Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans
The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.
“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”
According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.
Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans
The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.
Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.
Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.
Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options.
This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.
The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.
The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.
The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).
The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.
The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour; Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).
The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.
Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”
He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.