How Netflix is amplifying Africa’s storytelling with animation series

By Ralph Tathagata

When it comes to storytelling, Africa has one of the best and enduring traditions that resonates around the world. For the contemporary talented creative storytellers of the African continent, however, what really is needed is the global platform and technology that will enable them share their authentic stories with the world.

As part of its commitment to amplifying African storytellers, in 2019, Netflix released Tales of Africa, a collection of animated shorts where a character Papa Nzenu travels through six African countries and showcases traditional stories from each region.

Also in 2022, Netflix continued the rollout of films and TV series for African audiences with titles such as the second season of the Pan-African reality TV show ‘Young, Famous and Africa’, ‘Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman’ from EbonyLife Films; ‘Anikulapo’, a Kunle Afolayan film as well as an Akin Omotoso’s film ‘The Brave Ones’.

In April this year, Netflix said it planned to expand its operations in Africa and give more African storytellers an amplified voice on the global stage.

Interestingly, Netflix’s first original African animated series “Supa Team 4” premiered recently in a debut its creator said she hoped would pave the way for more productions from the continent.

Set in a futuristic version of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, “Supa Team 4” tells the story of four teen girls who turn undercover superheroes after being recruited by a retired secret agent to save the world. Put together by a very talented team from Africa and beyond, the animation series is believed by animation film industry analysts to lead to further investment and collaboration for growth. Malenga Mulendema created the series after being one of eight winners of the Triggerfish Story Lab initiative in 2015, a continent-wide talent competition in Africa.

When the series was announced for 2019, the scriptwriter said she wanted to set the story in her home country, Zambia, to show that anyone, from anywhere, can be a superhero. With Animated series, African children are now going to be able to see something they’ve never seen on TV before and probably be part of the events that shape their childhood.

It would be recalled that in recent years, Netflix has focused on diversifying its output outside the U.S., with hit series such as Spain’s “La Casa de Papel” and the South Korean dystopian drama “Squid Game”.

So far, the streaming giant has highlighted some of its investments in Africa such as the UNESCO and Netflix ‘African folktales, Reimagined’ competition; the Netflix and NFVF Film Fund and the Realness Institute Episodic Lab targeted at emerging filmmakers on the continent.

As part of the company’s ongoing commitment to creating sustainable relationships with African storytellers, Netflix is in a multi-project partnership with acclaimed South African filmmaker Mandlakayise Walter Dube. Under the partnership, Mandla – who directed Netflix’s first commissioned African film ‘Silverton Siege’ – will direct a variety of Netflix-owned projects. The partnership joins other multi-title agreements between the company and African creatives, including Mo Abudu and Kunle Afolayan.


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