A Business Case for the Kids’ Entertainment Sector in Kenya

Toys – our brain’s favorite way of learning. Charles Eames said, “Toys are not merely as innocent as they look. Toys and games are the prelude to serious ideas”. In retrospect, toys have been the ignition of curiosity and wonder, from our incomprehensible childhood years, gradually trickling down to our productive adulthood phase. The history of toys is as fascinating as it sounds because even after all this while, most of us still remember our favorite playthings, because they inspired and unlocked our gates of creativity. Looking back though, it is eminent that the type of toys now in circulation is very different from what we used to indulge in, then. Initially, our dolls, stuffed animals and makeshift amusements that we used to dress up and play with, have been overridden by gadgets and remote-controlled miniature figures. Imaginatively, could we owe this to economic dynamics?

The global toy market is valued at approximately $150 billion and is expected to grow by at least 7-8% in the next 5 years, according to Fortune Business Insights. Notably, the introduction of new product lines such as outdoor and sport toys, building and construction sets, video games and puzzles, have propelled the industry to record positive and healthy revenue streams over the years. Matter of fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry recorded close to double digits revenue as parents explored alternatives of entertainment. The industry has been dominated by five toy producing countries, namely the United States of America, China, Japan, India and Germany. These countries account for 50-55% of global sales and are considered centers of innovation and creativity in the field of kids’ entertainment.

Several factors have led to the survival and growth of the toy business globally. Firstly, there has been a generational change in parenthood. In the 1990s and early 2000s, kids’ entertainment was not a primary concern for most parents. Introspectively, children received toys as reward for good performance in school, as incentive to behave well or avenues to keep them busy and pass time. However, this has changed and currently, new-age parents view toys as a source of learning and avenues to trigger interests in fields such as science, sports and arts. Toy stores around the country and globally are now promoting replica models of mechanical and technological advancements such as gadgets, vehicles, sport gears and art equipment which are more appealing.

Secondly, the drive to move away from an aggressive, authoritative exam-based education system to one that offers practical and relatable skills has forced education stakeholders to consider the role of kids’ entertainment in supporting a child’s cognitive and critical thinking attributes. Presently, schools, more so private primary education centers, are investing in non-academic modes of learning which includes toys as an avenue to enhance their value proposition to consumers of their services. Furthermore, STEM toys have helped steer the curiosity of children in robotics, technology, engineering and science through coding, interactive interfaces and other problem-solving activities.

Thirdly, internet penetration has enabled children access entertainment content online and this has broadened their exposure and mindset. For the longest time, cartoons have been a favorite channel for kids. Consequentially, most toy manufacturers have been able to create imitations of cartoon characters that appeal to this market. As demand for online kids’ entertainment grows, it’s expected that the demand for manufactured toy replicas will rise and create a sustainable business environment for toy manufacturers.

Business Case

Contextually, there are quite a number of opportunities for Kenya to exploit this space. Having a budding parental population means that internal manufacturing capabilities can be enhanced to serve both current and future toys and kids’ entertainment needs of the market. In addition, with the right incentives in place, Kenya can attract leading toy manufacturers to set up shop in the country thereby contributing to youth employment, manufacturing knowledge enhancement and improved balance of trade metric based on improved export proposition. Nurturing these possibilities will ultimately prove to be beneficial, if mimetic desire is anything to go by.

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