How an institute is helping young techies thrive

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BY VICTOR ADAR

Kenyan students, as we know, are quite enterprising. While there are those who believe that it is a waste of time to jump into business when still fresh from college, the brainy ones simply view it as an opportunity where they can use the creativity and the geek in them to make some cash. It is at the back of this that Africa Digital Media Institute (ADMI) saw the importance of providing the emerging young creative training, mentorship and resources that they need to turn their passion into a profession.

Some of the different courses offered by the Pan-African digital media enterprise not only include diplomas and both foundation and professional certificates in film and TV production, journalism and multimedia, mobile app and game development, but also music production, sound engineering, animation and motion graphics, graphic design, photography as well as multimedia and digital marketing. But how did the true love for the creative business begin?

Wilfred Kiumi whose first attempt at turning around talent was in 2012 when he started Jamhuri Film & Television, is the founding director of ADMI. Regardless of how tough filling the talent gap is, setting up an institute that mainly focuses on professionals who would not like to interrupt their careers, is not for the faint hearted. The media man’s path into this ever changing industry was informed by the fact that more and more individuals who graduate from media schools are unable to operate cameras, leave a lone the basics like how to hold and take care of them.

It was six years ago when the idea was ignited. The institute would start off with a vision and a 2-room space on Ngong Road.

“We have come a long way,” says Kiumi. “Our first enrollment was 5 students in 2012. But we have really grown. In 2016, we celebrated the joining of our 500th student under the #5to500in5 anniversary celebrations. This January, we admitted our 750th student, and we expect to reach over 1,000 students within the next year.”

“We offer high-spec technical training in creative media and technology, intensive digital and soft-skills coaching and a rigorous apprenticeship process that targets a 100% internship placement rate,” he says.

Mr Kiumi who is also a director at Farsight Productions, a production and rental facility based at Film Studios in Nairobi, is confident that a regulation that advocates that 60% of local content be played in the media has created an opportunity to churn out more local content, mainly to be distributed and consumed came at the right time. That’s the opportunity that ADMI is working to harness. But what gives him the confidence to succeed in a market that is crowded with small institutions is being innovative.

“We are unique,” says Kiumi. “Our training is global, practical, digital, value-driven, personalized and transformational. It is also about passion. Our staff, faculty and students are all passionate about what they do.”

A time when it is still taking university graduates nearly five years to get jobs, it looks like Mr Kiumi is one Kenyan employing diverse ways aimed at shaping the entertainment and media industry. Winning against a scenario where professionals are not well cut out for doing the actual work like using cameras, directing, editing and production has meant that over the years, the institute must partner with other players to aid in the growth of those who go through the school’s systems.

In partnership with FilmAid, which is in its third year, the school is working with a team of professionals to bring in high-quality media training to youth in Kakuma refugee camp (Kalobeyi). In fact, for the last few months, three of the institute’s high performing faculty have travelled to Kakuma to train 84 students in script writing, directing, cinematography and sound recording.

This year, they will partner once again with FilmAid International to train more than 50 students and trainers in Rwanda in a project that enjoys the backing of Kepler Kiziba, which offers US-based accredited degrees from Southern New Hampshire University refugees. And that’s not all, the powerful enterprise is currently giving wings to underprivileged students from the Equity Group Foundation thanks to an initiative championed by the institute’s sister company, Africa Digital Media Foundation.

“Our students have access to the best facilities and excellent faculty members who are expert practitioners in their fields. The industry immersion program has students working and networking from day one and our career launchpad makes sure all students have polished their soft skills before we place them in internships,” he says. 

Apart from having physical offices in Kenya, the institute’s community is global with past and current students from all over Africa as well as Germany, Hungary and the United States. “We work with partners in Ghana and Nigeria and will offer professional development courses there starting this year,” says Kiumi.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the media industry in Kenya seems to be on an upward trend, which is not expected to stop anytime soon. Actually, it is estimated that by 2019 the industry will be worth Sh350 billion, an indication that the sector is expected to grow tremendously thus creating jobs. The biggest force behind this trend has been digitization.

Indeed the rise of the Internet and global connectivity has brought markets closer to the content creators. For instance, Mr Kiumi says: “One can join a platform like Fiverr and work for clients based in the US or South Africa. Training is also more global which means that with effort and exposure, people can create content of the same quality and scale as anyone else.” 

As ADMI deepens its footprint in Eastern Africa while spreading its wings to West Africa, Kiumi says that plans to open a second Kenyan campus and expand their studio arm to create compelling African stories for a global audience is underway.

“If you or someone you know has talent or a passion, the market has changed. We have many local examples of artists and techies who are creating successful, prestigious careers. With training, mentorship and a platform, anything is possible.”