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A whole new metaverse for two SA companies

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The ongoing metaverse and non-fungible token (NFT) hype is drawing the interest of South African companies.

MTN and advertising and marketing consultancy M&C Saatchi Abel have become the first local firms to buy virtual real estate in Africa’s first metaverse, Africarare.

Developed by Johannesburg-based innovation company Mann Made, the newly-launched Africarare is a 3D virtual reality (VR) immersive hub. It houses a metaverse marketplace that showcases African art, and provides a platform for businesses and artists to display their offerings.

Dubbed the next evolution of social connection, the metaverse is loosely defined as an extensive online world where people interact via digital avatars. Meta (formerly Facebook), Google and Microsoft have announced plans to develop metaverse experiences, services and hardware.

During the official launch of the virtual universe at an event in Johannesburg yesterday, Mann Made outlined its intentions for the commercialisation of the 3D virtual reality experience, which is set in Ubuntuland, a virtual world in Africa that marries creativity, crypto-currency and commerce.

In the Africarare marketplace, creators and developers can trade in in-world assets such as land, avatars, avatar additions, and other goods and services that are available in Ubuntuland.

Speaking at the official launch of Africarare, Mic Mann, co-founder and CEO of Africarare, noted the VR immersive hub is set to boost Africa’s economy and create employment, by connecting the continent to the global digital economy.

The marketplace focuses on art, Ubuntuland, avatars, skins and digital services. Users will also be able to trade on secondary platforms, such as OpenSea.

“Africarare will connect Africa to this booming arena of the global economy, stimulate growth and create multiple new jobs, such as digital designers, creators and architects. Additionally, it will enable South African artists to showcase their talent to the world and monetise their distinctive creations,” Mann explained.

Mic Mann, co-founder and CEO of Africa’s first metaverse, Africarare.
Mic Mann, co-founder and CEO of Africa’s first metaverse, Africarare.

The currency to be used in Ubuntuland is the $UBUNTU token, built on the Ethereum blockchain and available from later this year. Everything in Africarare can be bought, sold or traded using $UBUNTU tokens, including buying, developing, selling or renting plots or villages in Ubuntuland, and the in-world purchases of digital goods and services.

Industry pundits previously told ITWeb that while SA is still in the infancy stages of adoption, this year more companies are expected to experiment with the metaverse and NFTs, as they evolve their digital strategies to meet customer demands and seek to increase profit margins.

Establishing a virtual ‘office’

MTN is entering Africarare as a village owner, noted Mann. The telco has bought 144 plots of virtual land, with an overall area of 12x12m.

“MTN‘s 144 real estate plots in Africarare allows them to expand their MTN footprint in the metaverse instead of in the real world. They will be building multiple experiences which showcase different parts of their business from around the world. They may build a game inside their land and people could come and play that game and earn money, just like Axie Infinity, the play-to-earn NFT game taking the metaverse by storm.

“There may also be an MTN store and the options of what they can create on that land are endless. This means instead of customers rushing to a mall to get assistance, they could just go to the Ubuntuland-based MTN store and get help there,” said Mann.

MTN stated its investment in the metaverse demonstrates the telco’s commitment to supporting African innovation, as it is the first telco on the continent to support an initiative of this kind.

Bernice Samuels, MTN group executive for marketing, said: “This is an exciting moment for us as we lead businesses on the continent to enter the metaverse marketplace.

“This is exactly what our Ambition 2025 strategy is premised on – leveraging trends that amplify consumers’ digital experiences and engagement. We have always been at the forefront of technological and digital changes, and we remain alive to the exciting opportunities the metaverse presents for us and our customers.’’

M&C Saatchi Abel became the first South African agency to open a virtual “office” in the metaverse, after purchasing its own plot of land in Ubuntuland.

Two art galleries – Mila and Inuka − will feature in Africarare, dedicated to showcasing creations by some of Africa’s foremost and prolific artists.

Renowned South African artist Norman Catherine developed a unique collection of avatars − the Normunda tribe − for the metaverse, and these will shortly be available to purchase in Africarare.

A collaboration between Africarare and South African television and music superstar Boitumelo Thulo was also announced at the event. Popularly known as Boity, the rapper, actress and businesswoman revealed her first VR music video, and her avatar, Queen Boity, made its debut in the marketplace.

The Boity tribe of 10 000 avatars will soon be available for fans, with a Boity village being developed and plans for virtual concerts under way.

South African television and music personality Boitumelo Thulo.
South African television and music personality Boitumelo Thulo.
The Queen Boity avatar.
The Queen Boity avatar.
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13 Aug
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