'I want Africa to be technology powerhouse': SA's first black animator's goals for Africa

Picture: Supplied

Picture: Supplied

Published May 20, 2020


Born with an entrepreneurial spirit, charismatic creative David Phume hails from Bryanston, Johannesburg and has never been afraid to dream big.

The 37-year-old Phume started doing animation from a young age and has been called South Africa’s first black animator. His new interest in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) has determined him to become a leader in this field and on the continent.

“It all started when I was 12 years old and was fortunate enough to be exposed to high-end animation software,” said Phume.

He studied 3-D animation at Boston Media House in Johannesburg before graduating from San Francisco animation school in the US where his teachers included professionals from international studios such as Pixar, Reel FX, and Sony Pictures Imageworks to name a few. 

He founded Joburg’s Penthouse Motion Pictures in 2005, a broadcast design and animation studio which has since gone on to win numerous creative accolades.

Yearning to learn and looking for new challenges he began studying robotics and AI online with a leading EdTech platform Udacity.

Four years ago, he began a journey in tech because he realized that most of the Continent’s problems are due to lack of technology.

“I went on to launch Blackchain.ai, a technology company that identifies problems in Africa and finds solutions through technology. It is founded on four pillars - to inspire, identify talent, nurture skills, and innovate. And now we are working on a robotics challenge TV show for high school students and currently in negotiations with broadcasters; a School of Robotics and AI and an Innovation Lab,” said Phume.

Phume and his team have already started the process of identifying five students for the School of Robotics and AI who are enrolled in their program at no cost. The main courses are robotics engineering and AI programming. For those with no prior knowledge in computer programming, there are prerequisite courses on C++ and Python programming.

“I want to do my part in ensuring that Africa becomes a technology powerhouse and within the next five years, I hope to have enrolled more than 5 000 students across the continent in our robotics and AI programme.

“Robotics is a field that encapsulates many fundamental areas in technology, including computer science and AI. With AI clearly becoming man’s greatest and most powerful tool, it is important for all Africans to progress in technology with the goal of solving their biggest problem and that is economic slavery. Our health and poverty problems are a bi-product of economic slavery, and it is through technology that we can truly free ourselves,” he added.

He also believes that science and creativity go hand-in-hand and for this, he's also launched a tech-art studio as part of Blackchain.ai.


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