We tried to buy land in Ubuntuland’s metaverse — but it was impossible

MTN and M&C Saatchi Abel recently announced that they bought “plots” in Africarare’s Ubuntuland metaverse. However, when MyBroadband tried to do the same, it proved impossible.

Africarare bills itself as a marketplace for African creativity, powered by the Ethereum blockchain, building the Ubuntuland metaverse and 3D virtual reality experience.

It is the brainchild of Mic Mann of events and media company Mann Made Media. Ubuntuland will feature its own crypto token, the $UBU coin.

A coup for Africarare was bringing renowned South African artist Norman Catherine on board and selling non-fungible tokens (NFTs) of his art.

Africarare made headlines in October 2021 when Catherine’s debut NFT art collection sold out in two weeks.

The 52 NFTs raised $53,000 (R765,400 at the time) in Ethereum’s native cryptocurrency, ether.

Catherine is known in the fine art world as a solid bet for investment art. Having his name attached to the project lent it credibility.

MTN announced in February that it had bought 144 plots of digital land in Ubuntuland, which will have an in-world size of 12×12 metres.

It did not disclose how much it paid.

MyBroadband decided to try buying some of our own property in Ubuntuland.

Africarare’s map of plots available for purchase in Ubuntuland

Africarare’s website says to email “Zhulik” to express interest in private land sales.

Alternatively, you can wait until the end of April 2022 for a public auction.

Zhulik has been referred to as an Africarare cofounder in public relations material from the company.

When MyBroadband contacted the provided email address, we received a generic response from Zhulik saying we were added to a waiting list.

We noticed that the email appeared to come from a mass mailer system. The “unsubscribe” link pointed to mannmade.co.za.

Following the link to our mailing list preferences revealed that Africarare had signed us up to 13 different marketing mailing lists.

Aside from Africarare’s marketing emails, we were also signed up to lists for Mann Made Insights, MTN GLG 2022, MTN Go Bokke, SingularityU, and Toyota Touch.

We have yet to be quoted a price on land in the Ubuntuland metaverse.

The mailing lists MyBroadband was signed up for when contacting Zhulik about buying plots in Ubuntuland (click to enlarge)

During an interview on Cape Talk, Mic Mann said that an Ubuntuland plot costs $149 (R2,300), suggesting that MTN’s purchase was around R330,000.

MTN declined to confirm how much it spent and said it paid the published price for its Ubuntuland property, referring MyBroadband to the Africarare website for more information.

However, the website only states that 204,642 plots of land are available. These would be “positioned and priced according to a tiered value system”.

When we pointed out that there is no public price list, MTN said we should contact Mann Made for more information.

MyBroadband asked MTN about its relationship with Mann Made, and the company said the media and events provider was a commercial vendor of certain services.

Mic Mann also declined to confirm pricing, saying that the $149 figure he mentioned on Cape Talk was subject to change according to demand, and as their tech improves.

He also said it was a mistake that we were signed up to 13 mailing lists and that he would look into the issue.

There was one other person in the Mila Gallery when we visited Ubuntuland

MyBroadband also visited Ubuntuland to see how many people were using the world, and found it deserted.

Ubuntuland’s public alpha currently consists of three areas — the Mila Gallery, the Central Kraal, and the Bush.

The Mila Gallery is the only area with functionality at the moment, as it’s where some of Catherine’s NFTs are displayed and sold.

However, MyBroadband only ever saw one other person in the gallery.

MTN said it isn’t too concerned about the lack of audience for now.

“The environment is currently in its launch phase, and as with most things, will take time to gain traction and acceptance from the late majority,” it said.

“We acquired a presence in the African metaverse because of the opportunity to increase our attractiveness to customers by offering merged experiences.”

Mann said that it was strange we hadn’t seen anyone in Ubuntuland when we tested it in March, as there had been an influx of new users.

Ubuntuland under construction

He said companies like MTN and M&C Saatchi Abel, which are getting into the space early, understand that the metaverse is the next evolution of the Internet.

“Companies that saw the Internet come and embraced it had a leg up over others,” said Mann.

“The quicker you can get into understanding that and building in the new space, the quicker you can evolve.”

Mann also acknowledged that there was a level of mania around cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and metaverses.

“[There is] massive hysteria,” he said.

“90% of the projects aren’t going to succeed. It’s the projects that build long-term and offer real value that are going to last.”

Interestingly, when MyBroadband revisited Ubuntuland in April, the Central Kraal had received an update — it now has several computer-controlled avatars roaming around, creating the illusion of activity.

Now read: University of Johannesburg launches blockchain-based certificates

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We tried to buy land in Ubuntuland’s metaverse — but it was impossible