By Sherry Dzinoreva; Public Policy Programs Director Africa, Middle East & Turkey at Meta
The rise of Extended Reality (XR) is transforming the way people experience both the physical and virtual worlds, creating new possibilities in different spectrums of life.
Imagine being able to create an avatar that resembles you with the ability to recreate physical activities like shopping and interacting with people all from the comfort of your home; imagine being able to sit and chat with friends thousands of miles away and yet feel so close or being able to tour the Great Pyramid in Egypt.
This immersive technology encompasses both Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), and Virtual Reality (VR), which is a mix of digital, real and artificial environments that shape the metaverse and allow people to plunge into new realities.
As technology continues to advance, people have the opportunity to transform, learn, experience, and build new worlds of businesses, relationships, and talents in the metaverse.
The metaverse will be built by a range of companies large and small, civil society, the public sector, and, most importantly, by millions of individual creators making new experiences and digital items that will unlock a larger creative economy.
This is why Meta is investing in creators and developers, skills development and research in an effort to help build the future of this technology across Africa.
Building a universal tech ecosystem
While access into the metaverse is not fully realised and developed, we are already seeing organisations and talented individuals contributing to the development of the metaverse.
The investments by these eco-system players have provided expanded access for everyone to explore this new generation of the internet.
According to our new report, the metaverse has the potential to add an estimated $3 trillion to the global economy in a decade if adoption and growth are similar to mobile technology.
Estimates are that the metaverse could add in Sub-Saharan Africa – 1.8% contribution to regional GDP, or $40 billion.
We believe that the impact of the investment, exploration and experimentation in this ecosystem will invariably influence the African economy.
Extended reality will continue to add value to businesses and create endless opportunities for creators and developers.
As part of Meta’s $150 million initiative of Meta Immersive Learning to empower the next generation of metaverse creators and create a thriving AR ecosystem that offers training, funding and job skills, we are partnering with African Leadership University to extend MetaSpark’s AR curriculum to over six thousands of ALU’s current students and alumni, creators, developers and entrepreneurs.
This provides an opportunity to build skills for the future of work for participants to become a part of a global AR community.
Creating a thriving ecosystem will lead to valuable benefits for businesses in Africa and give creators access to cutting-edge tools, education, and resources, so they’re at the forefront of tomorrow’s opportunities and innovation.
Empowering XR creators and developers in Africa
To support the next generation of creators and developers, we are always looking for innovations that can create real-world solutions and diverse narratives through immersive technology.
We recently announced the AR/VR Africa Metathon in partnership with Imisi 3D and Black Rhino VR focused on supporting African XR talent in building innovative solutions that demonstrate the various aspects and use cases of the metaverse.
It’s an investment including a two-month training program with an extensive XR curriculum, an Africa-wide hackathon with over $70,000 in cash and other prizes, and a three-month Bootcamp for the hackathon winners to develop their hacks into MVPs.
To further amplify the voices of creators who are promoting African storytelling through XR in Africa, we partnered with Africa No Filter to launch the Future Africa: Telling Stories, Building Worlds programme, aimed at directly supporting African XR creators who are promoting Africa through their craft.
The initiative included a grant program that provided funding, mentorship and production support for African XR creatives; a mapping of the XR ecosystem in Africa; and support for independent journalists and academic researchers.
In October, the selected creators presented their projects through an XR showcase in Lagos, Nigeria and Johannesburg, South Africa where audiences had a chance to experience their work, each exploring a mix of history, tradition, futurism and everyday life.
The featured creators included Dylan Valley (South Africa), Malik Afegbua (Nigeria), Michelle Ang’awa (Kenya), Nirma Madhoo (Mauritius), Pierre-Christophe Gam (Cameroon) and Xabiso Villi (South Africa).
In addition to the support of creators and developers, we also believe that immersive technology can be a powerful tool for education and social change. This technology aids training, increases productivity and supports impactful research for organisations and institutions.
That is why we are also supporting the Lagos Business School’s Virtual Human-Computer Interaction Lab, which will conduct academic research on how participation in Virtual Reality game conceptualization, design, and gameplay can influence empathy and compassion. The research will put special focus on ethnic identity and discrimination.
We’re excited for what the future holds when it comes to realising the full potential of the metaverse in Africa.
There’s already so much work that’s being done from storytellers, academics and visionaries across the continent. We are committed to supporting their work and that of the next generation of innovators in the years to come.
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