By María Rodríguez
Dakar, Jul 28 (efe-epa).- A Senegalese startup has developed a fun and entertaining way to raise awareness of one of the most pressing and serious issues facing the Atlantic nation: beach pollution.
Kayfo’s Clean My Beach is a slingshot-style video game in which the player must, as its name suggests, clean up polluted beaches.
Gamers are put at the center of the issue as they throw rubbish picked up off the sand into a recycling bin and return animals to their natural habitat.
“It is a matter that concerns us all, especially when we see the state of beaches here in Senegal, it is something that strikes us every time we go to the beach,” French Julien Herbin, founder of Kayfo Game Studio, tells Efe. “So we thought it would be a good topic to address in a video game.”
Created in June 2019 in Dakar, Kayfo is a newcomer to the sector, and is looking to use the games to raise awareness of salient issues in what has previously largely been an entertainment business while also creating games of the highest quality to be able to compete with those produced abroad.
Its name comes from Wolof, the main local language in Senegal, and means “come and play”.
The games created at Kayfo are intended for smartphones and tablets, the most accessible devices for Senegalese people.
Since its creation, the company has released three games: Da’karapid, in which players race with Senegal’s iconic buses, Afro Juggle Challenge, a football game, and the latest, Clean My Beach.
“In general, the users of the video game are fairly young, but not exclusively. Here in Africa, the population is very young and we see the opportunity to raise awareness of environmental problems and challenges,” Herbin says.
In Clean My Beach, when players move up a level, new animals, from hedgehogs and starfish to seagulls, turtles, fish and whales, are released and returned to the beach.
Another aspect of the game, available for both Android and iOS, is that the objects collected on the beach can be recycled in a machine before they are turned into a new one, giving waste a second life.
“In Senegal, people throw rubbish everywhere, on the beaches, in the street; we told ourselves that something had to be done, open the eyes of the people, awaken the collective conscience”, Binta Dème, the only woman on the team and the only female video game designer in Senegal, tells Efe.
Kayfo has developed the game to be distributed for free, using adverts to stay afloat and train the small team of seven people, who are all native Senegalese apart from the founder, who is the member of the group with any video game experience outside of Kayfo, having worked for 12 years at Ubisoft, one of the industry’s leading companies.
The rest of the team, while hugely passionate for video games and qualified in general technical or artistic backgrounds, lack specific design training, as the industry in Senegal remains underdeveloped.
“As far as I know, we are the only professional studio dedicated exclusively to video games (in Senegal). There are often some initiatives led by young students who have made good games and that deal with African issues, more specifically Senegalese.
“But, in my opinion, these young people do not go too far due to the lack of resources, knowledge of the industry and the necessary time to invest in the project. If their projects were better guided, they would end up creating games comparable to those created in other places “, Herbin says.
The developer of Clean My Beach, Thierno Ndiaye, who studied programming at a private institution in the Senegalese capital, says “there are many young people (students) interested in video games, but they can’t find a way to practice or learn” in Senegal.
Kayfo has partnered with Ecolibri Senegal, a socio-environmental association aiming to achieve clean, green and beautiful public places in the Senegalese capital by planting trees and agaves along its coastline.
Thanks to the partnership, Kayfo will plant a tree every month on behalf of the player with the highest score.