KingstOOn 2019: Jamaica boosts youth employment through animation

International Animation Conference & Film Festival KingstOOn Animation 2019 opened at UTech on Friday April 5. The main campus of the University has been transformed into an international Animation festival village, marking the third edition of the conference.

Hosted by the Government of Jamaica under the Youth Employment in the Digital and Animation Enterprises (YEDAI), the event has been organized in collaboration with the World Bank. Entries to the show have also increased significantly since its inception from approximately 300 in 2013, to over 900 in (2016) and has exceeded 1800 (from 105 countries) this year.

With youth unemployment still lagging significantly behind the national average (19.4% and 8.7% respectively in the 3rd quarter of 2018), the main thrust of the festival is to promote animation as a viable career option through its many manifestations (games, non-entertainment activities, feature films, etc.).

‘Jamaica is positioned to reap significant benefits from this rapidly growing animation industry, which generated more than USD 259 billion in revenue globally last year’, said Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in his message through the festival’s official magazine. He argued that digital driven enterprises such as those within the animation industry enable the finest minds from small islands like ours to collaborate seamlessly across borders with global leaders and to compete more vigorously. KingstOOn 3 can help to build capacity through insights and targeted training.

On June 20, 2013 when Jamaica officially opened its doors to the global animation industry through KingstOOn, there was a mood of expectation and guarded optimism. It brought together international and Jamaican industry leaders, universities, businesses, Government officials, animation professionals and amateurs, students, and young dreamers to showcase Jamaica’s growing crop of local animators and visual artists.

As foundation partners, the World Bank continues its active involvement and support on this journey. Galina Sotirova, Country Manager Latin America and the Caribbean Region of the World Bank, remarked: ‘KingstOOn is a great opportunity to place the rich talent of Jamaica’s youth in the international spotlight and help strengthen the animation industry which has the potential to significantly contribute to growth and creation of jobs. This is a very exciting project and I look forward to the event and the many opportunities it will provide for youth employment’.

Since 2016, KingstOOn has expanded from two to three days with the Afro-Descendant Film Festival running throughout the event. On the ground, there has been steady growth in the offerings of technical and business training in animation and even the inclusion of the subject area ‘Animation and Game Design’ on the regional CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) roster.

KingstOOn 3 was built on the successes of 2013 and 2016, once again with three concurrent core themes: LearnEarn and Display. This included specific workshops, seminars and keynote addresses while it has created the space for the exchange of knowledge and experiences, via panel discussions and networking events. Kingstoon 3 showcased Jamaica as a rich source of Afro-descendant stories and a hub for both academic exploration and animation production.

Sponsors of KingstOOn include WacomToon Boom, TV PaintFLOW JamaicaESIROMTelevision JamaicaCreative Production and Training CentreJamaica Information Service, the Gleaner CompanyCapilano University (Canada), Champion Spring WaterJABLUM coffee, Likkle Tea and the Jamaica Animation Nation Network (JANN).

The Yedai project is a World Bank financed project aimed at fostering entrepreneurship and employability among Jamaican youth and a favourable and innovative ecosystem for the emergence and growth of youth-led start-up enterprises. It is estimated that the Project will directly and indirectly benefit approximately fifteen thousand youth in rural and urban areas with the main target group being youth between the ages of 15-30 years.

The Project is also designed to ensure its activities and involve close collaboration with institutions working with youth in low-income communities and vulnerable target groups such as youth with disabilities and will provide need-based scholarship funding to facilitate the participation of the “bottom 40%” of the youth population in the training programs.