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Malume's Playground brings gaming to the impoverished in Africa

Zukisa Festile, the founder of Malume's Playground, is bringing gaming and esports to disadvantaged communities in South Africa.
Malume's Playground brings gaming to the impoverished in Africa

Gaming and esports are still emerging phenomena in South Africa (and Africa) but have made great strides in the last few years. While a few teams and individuals are making their mark in the industry on international stages, it's back on home soil where one individual has been nurturing the next generation of gamers at a grassroots level.

Malume's Playground is the brainchild of Zukisa Festile, a place for children in his community to enjoy playing games with others who can't afford to own a PC or console. Being a gamer and a South African myself, I was excited to interview its founder and learn more about the gaming centre.

What is Malume's Playground?

Malume's Playground is a gaming centre based in Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape in South Africa. This facility was started by Zukisa Festile and offers a fun yet safe environment for children, adults, and families to learn more about gaming and enjoy playing from a selection of games that Malume's Playground offers.

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Malume's Playground is a family playing centre based in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa. (Picture: Supplied)

Visitors to the gaming centre can enjoy playing popular gaming titles across multiple platforms, including Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PSVR. While their core business is through their gaming centre, Malume's Playground plans to host various gaming and esports events to connect with community members.

Additionally, Malume's Playground assists local organisations and businesses attract and interact with their customers, employees or members. They achieve this by offering their location, services and gaming equipment for many local events.

We were lucky enough to speak with Zukisa Festile to learn more about the project and how they're creating an environment to produce the next generation of gamers.

Interview Q&A with Zukisa Festile

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Malume's Playground founder, Zukisa Festile, started the centre after seeing a market to run an entertainment place within his community. (Picture: Supplied)

In our interview, I asked Malume's Playground founder and CEO Zukisa Festile a broad range of questions, including how it was founded, the challenges they face and goals for the future.

How did the concept for Malume's Playground begin?

It all started when a friend bought a second hand PlayStation 2 and brought it to my place so we could play in 2015. I had never touched or played PS before, and I was not a gamer. We would play the same game (Pro Evolution Soccer) the whole day or night, depending on what shifts we were working; sometimes, when he was unable to come and play, I would sit and play alone.

One day I was playing, and my nephews and friends asked me, "Malume, how much would you charge to play per game?" I said R2, and a few minutes later, there were back with money for a game, and that's how it all started.

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Despite the vast setbacks, Malume's Playground has largely been inspired by the younger members of its community. (Picture: Supplied)

What inspired you in getting the project off the ground?

It's the kids. After that first day, when they paid to play, I spent the whole night searching for anything I could find about PlayStation and gaming cafes or centres.

I saw the business side and learned [how] we're behind; that the PS4 was already out for a couple of years. That's how I saw the gap we have in my township, which most townships are going through; PS4 is a luxury, and owning one is a privilege. 

What are the biggest challenges Malume's Playground has faced or is facing?

Our biggest challenge is crime and cash flow. We charge so little that we cannot buy our operating equipment and invest in the business.

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Malume's Playground has actively been involved in its community, hosting events and promotions for businesses to invest in the centre. (Picture: Supplied)

It's also worth mentioning that South Africa has been experiencing an energy crisis over the last couple of years, seeing significant occurrences of rolling blackouts, known as load shedding. This hampers Malume's Playground from allowing people to visit the gaming centre, and it has to close its doors until power resumes.

What can you say is the most rewarding aspect since starting Malume's Playground?

These kids' faces when they're playing, you can't buy that. The first time when they touch the controllers, they see the PS4 for the first time or play FIFA for the first time in their lives.

I realised that having that R7, which is now R10 to pay and play, is also a hurdle to them, which says a lot about the township I'm from. That's why sometimes I go and ask people #PayForTheKidsToPlay, knowing that I'm part of the difference; their happiness makes me happy.

How does Malume's Playground communicate its work to the community?

Word of mouth, but mostly we use socials. Look, even now, if we can open again, it will only take them a few minutes for most of them to know that Malume Playground is open again, and it also helps that I have a lot of nephews going to different schools.

Are there plans to expand Malume's Playground? If so, what do these plans include?

Yes, I have big plans that can't be executed now due to a lack of resources, but we have plans to expand to other areas and townships across the Bay and the province.

We are currently planning a high school FIFA tournament [and] we are looking for sponsors and funders for that one. The finals will be on 16th June 2022, which is a significantly big day in the South African calendar.

We also want to launch Malume eSports, and last year before the robbery incident, we were planning to host an eGaming Festival. We hope we can finally do it this year; however, we just wish we could reopen again.

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Malume's Playground has plans to launch its esports team and gaming festival sometime soon. (Picture: Supplied)

The robbery incident Zukisa mentioned occurred after hours at Malume's Playground in November 2021. The reported stolen equipment included three gaming consoles, various controllers, and three monitors during this horrific incident.

While Zukisa plans to host more tournaments and events in 2022, coupled with the country's COVID-19 pandemic guidelines and load shedding problems, the robbery incident has prevented Malume's Playground from opening its doors to the community once again.

What would you like to have achieved in the next six months? One year?

I usually get inboxes or Whatsapp messages from people who wish or want to start a gaming cafe or centre. My answer is always the same: Find the "Why" first and start with what you have.

My "why" is the kids. The township kids who can't buy a console to play. In 2015, I started playing PS2, but PS4 was out for a couple of years, but the passion and excitement of the kids when they got to play, I don't know if some of them knew or not what they were playing was an old console.

My purpose is to give them the latest when it comes to gaming. Now they want me to buy PS5, but I tell them they can't afford to pay for PS4.

Any final words for persons aspiring to develop or create safe spaces for gaming and esports in South Africa?

My message to the gaming and esports community in South Africa is that Gauteng is not the only province in the country. If you want to grow the industry, there are other provinces to reach out to.

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Malume's Playground has become a safe place for members of its community since opening its doors. (Picture: Supplied)

In Eastern Cape, there's only one big esports event I know of, which is hosted by BigFive and Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. One. I see Western Cape is slowly joining Gauteng, too, with events and activities. Please spread the game for its growth.

Interview ends.  

Thank you, Zukisa Festile, for chatting with us and creating safe spaces for gamers in South Africa.

You can connect with Malume's Playground across its social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Additionally, you may contact Zukisa via email at: [email protected] or telephonically at +27 (0)67 206 0740.


Featured image courtesy of Maulume's Playground / Supplied.