Q&A: David Preston on Canon's Miraisha programme

By Polycarp Kazaresam

Canon Europe is celebrating a significant two-year milestone for one of its core sustainability programmes, Miraisha. The programme aims to promote job opportunities in Africa by offering workshops to photographers, videographers, film-makers and business owners. Since its 2014 beginning, Miraisha has trained over 2,500 participants. We spoke to David Preston, Strategic Operations Director for Emerging Markets at Canon Europe about the project.

Can you tell me about your role in Miraisha?

I’m the Strategic Operations Director for Emerging Markets at Canon Europe. This means I’m responsible for putting initiatives in place to transform Canon’s presence in emerging markets, such as Africa, and organising innovative projects to raise our profile in these areas.

Three years ago, I proposed the Miraisha programme to provide people and organisations in Africa with the opportunity to develop skills in imaging technology and services. I wanted to use the programme to empower individuals, whilst also making the most of our expert staff, services and technology. It started as my baby and since then I’ve seen it grow quite substantially! We now have staff in Dubai, where Canon’s African operations are based due to its strong links with region, and together with Canon Europe oversee this programme.

What has Miraisha achieved in the past two years?

In the past two years, the achievements of the programme have been considerable. At the beginning of Miraisha, Canon had already been involved in several high-profile corporate sustainability projects; but we wanted this programme to take a much more localised approach, focused on contributing directly to the community with on the ground activity that involved our people.

Since then, Canon has been able to train over 2,500 people through ongoing workshops for photographers, videographers, filmmakers and print business owners. This has allowed them to develop new skills, leading to improved employment prospects. For example, since the project started, more than 140 photographers have received work with a paid commission since attending a workshop and more than 20 have received awards and recognition for their work. In the printing space, print shop owners have also benefitted, with one, for example, winning a large African Bank as a customer, citing the training from Canon as a winning factor for them. Overall, we are proud to have made a significant contribution to people’s lives through the programme and it’s been great to see how organisations have grown and developed as a result. 

Why is photography, videography, filmmaking and printing worth investing in?

In Africa, the photography and videography market is developing rapidly. For example ‘Nollywood’, Nigeria’s take on the Hollywood/Bollywood phenomenon, is evolving at an immense rate following the introduction of the concept in the 00’s. As Africa develops into a pro-video, pro-film market, it presents a good opportunity for Canon to provide local people with training to support career development in these industries.

Whilst Canon is still fundamentally known as a consumer brand in these markets, we’re starting to invest in printing development practices as the awareness of our B2B proposition increases. In Ghana last year, we held a number of professional printing training courses with local printing businesses to teach them how to utilise their equipment and make the most of new technology. As awareness increases, we will be looking to expand the training we offer in printing to allow local people to grow their businesses further.

Why has Canon chosen to implement this programme in Africa?

Africa is still a relative newcomer in terms of its adoption of photography equipment, however, many markets within the continent have grown rapidly and interest in the photography and videography sector has boomed. This in turn has created a huge opportunity for Canon.

With newfound interest comes a natural desire to learn more and enter these sectors as a professional. That is where our idea of providing training initiatives came from; we wanted to give people the opportunity to discover their skills and the inspiration to start or grow their business. We created our Canon Central North Africa team at the beginning of 2016 and since then, together with resources from our corporate Head quarters we have been able to focus specifically on the benefits the programme brings to local people.

Where do you see this project going within the next five years?

Whilst the project is in full force again this year, Africa is a vast continent with lots of room for opportunity. So far, our projects have been focused in Kenya, Ghana and this year, Nigeria. By 2022 we want the programme to be rolled out and available to the majority of other African countries so there’s the chance for everyone to get on board and realise their talents. In the long-term, we’ll aim to develop the skills of local people and take them on board as Canon trainers for their community, supporting them with materials and plenty of opportunity for further development.


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