Mark Kaigwa is a storyteller whose main subject is Africa. Be it at his speaking engagements, on his animated films, video games, blogs or social media reports, his aim is to document and highlight events on the continent and map its growth in various sectors. Kaigwa believes that stories from and about the continent should be less about the usual topics— wildlife, poverty, war—and more about innovation and development.
“He knows the stereotypes that shape the popular narrative on the continent and he wants to help change the image of Africa from safaris and corruption to silicon and construction,” the Deutsche Welle wrote in its profile of Kaigwa.
Along with other young creative and technology entrepreneurs on the continent, Kaigwa is working to change the narrative. It was to this end that he founded the social media strategy and storytelling consultancy, Nendo. Nendo ventures carries out social media training, branding, auditing, strategy, among other tasks, for businesses and non-governmental organisations across Africa.
Through Nendo, Kaigwa published ‘The A to Z of Kenyan Twitter’ in 2014. The project which aimed to explain Kenya’s Twitter sphere to the world, comprised 27 YouTube videos, a website, and an e-book. In 2015, still under Nendo, he launched the Nendo 2014/2015 Social Media Trend Report. Publishing the report, he said, became important because of the paucity of relevant information on digital trends about Africa by Africans.
“You have people working and riding the wave but not enough people standing on the beach taking pictures that show how everyone was riding the wave. We needed someone to take a panorama to show us what the present and the future is,” he was quoted in this report.
Kaigwa noted of himself on his site: “I’ve been attracted to the idea of being an African content creator and passionate about encouraging others to take up their place.”
Kaigwa has created video games and written five animated short films, collaborating with the famed director of Alvin & the Chipmunks, Chris Bailey. In 2010 he wrote and directed the feature film, Dawa, which premiered at the 31st Durban International Film Festival, South Africa.
With the AfricanDigitalArt where he works as partner and digital strategist, Kaigwa curates animation, photography, illustration, and design from all over Africa. Until 2013, he was a partner at the foremost technology & innovation online journal, Afrinnovator.
Through his endeavours, Kaigwa has proven that social media is indeed serious business. His work has seen him named among the 2013 Forbes 30 Under 30 Young Entrepreneurs in Africa. Kaigwa credits penetration of information and communications technology on the continent for the explosion of the innovation currently taking place.
“Thanks to the Internet we’ve seen Africa’s creative class rise to share a new narrative. One less dominated by strife, civil war and disaster and rather of innovation and thriving economies,” he told Deutsche Welle. “I think it is useful to have outside sources report from Africa but the absence of context is a dangerous thing driving a narrative of reporting that re-emphasises stereotypes and doesn’t illuminate the continent’s nuanced diversity.”
Entrepreneurship, Kaigwa has said, is not the easiest undertaking as it demands an enormous amount of sacrifice and risk-taking. But he has been successful partly because he is not afraid to fail.
“Failure is part of the recipe of success. Most people don’t care to admit it, but show me 10 people who have succeeded and I will find it hard to find anyone who has succeeded on his first try,” he noted
Other elements of his success, he has also said, are his early understanding of some basics about good communication, branding and networking.