Africa is ripe to tell its own story using film

By: KWENDO OPANGA

Are Africans taking seriously the business of film-making and with it the onus of telling their story themselves?

Are they persuaded that the creative industry is a driver of economic growth in which they need to invest substantially to help diversify their economies?

An African country does no feature among the world’s top 10 film producers.

I am reading Status of African Film Industry, 2015: An Analysis of the State of Audiovisual and Film Sector in AU Member States.

Now I go back to page 11. I look at this map again. Then I scroll back and I read the caption on the preceding page: Concentration of Film Production, 2011.

FILM PRODUCING COUNTRIES

It is a map of the world, but what has arrested my attention is Africa and the reason is not that it houses major concentrations of film producing countries.

No, that belongs to North and South America, Asia, Europe and Australasia.

The movie-making countries of Africa shaded out here include Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria and few others in West Africa.

Vast swathes of the continent in the North and South, East and West and in the centre, the key shows, have produced 20 films or less a year.

Nigeria produces more than 100 films followed by South Africa, Egypt and Algeria with between 21 and 60 movies and the few West and Central African countries with 20 or less annually.

This is disturbing because this same report quotes UNESCO and UNDP, who are major promoters of film making in Africa, as stating in their 2013 report that the creative economy is one of the “most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy’’ and as “highly transformative in terms of income generation, job creation and export earnings.”

ECONOMIC GROWTH DRIVER

That means the creative industry, which includes the performing arts, festivals, visual arts and film, television, radio, video, photography and new media, is a driver of economic growth.

Indeed, Deloite in a baseline study of South Africa’s film industry reported that film had contributed R3.5 billion to GDP; created over 25,175 full time jobs and encompassed over 2,500 direct service providers.

I seek out and put the questions in my opening paragraph to Ms Jane Murago-Munene, the Executive Director of the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI), which is domiciled in Nairobi.

A long-standing film-maker herself and well versed in the creative economy, she is confident Africa is ready to tell its story through its own films and use film as a driver of growth.

Murago-Munene reminds that the AU is itself committed to the development of African film and the creative industry.

“It was the AU heads of state meeting in Maputo in 2003 who called for the establishment of an African Commission on the audio-visual and cinema as well as a fund to promote the cinema industry and television programmes in Africa,” she says.

PROMOTING FILM PRODUCTION

The one-page document she gives me hands that towards this end the heads of state also asked the AU Commission to put in place structures whose statutes would facilitate the participation of the African Union, African governments, the private sector and civil society in the activities of the said structures. But 2003 was a long time ago, I say.

Africans are serious, which is why FEPACI is hosted by the government of Kenya on whose part I see a lot of goodwill, Murago-Munene says.

I ask about when the African Commission on the Audiovisual and Cinema (AACC) and the Fund will be in place, and, once again, she is upbeat, saying that given the goodwill and the increasing interest in film and growth of the creative industry the commission AACC and Fund should be in place sooner rather than later.

I get the feeling that sooner rather than later may point to January when the AU meets.

“As the Nigerian industry has shown, and Kenyans are following in their footsteps as are many other African countries, what we need is to improve the quality of our productions; we need to improve our infrastructure and we have to have academies to train all cadres involved in film-making as well as our distribution. Our work is cut out,” declares Murago-Munene.

Let me end on this note about Nigeria: The Harvard Kennedy School in a 2008 study reported that Nigeria’s film industry’s estimated revenue was $540 million; employed over one million people and “illustrates how culture can help to diversify an economy highly dependent on oil”.

AU, bring on AACC. And it should come to Nairobi because FEPACI is here.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION