As Africa turns into a battleground for eyeballs in the video streaming market, Unesco predicts that the film industry can give rise to 20 million jobs while contributing $20 billion to the continent’s combined GDP, if financed better.
At the moment, piracy remains rampant and two-thirds of countries estimate that at least 50 percent of the potential revenue of the sector is lost to the illegal exploitation of creative audiovisual content, which also discourages investors.
Only about 19 African countries offer financial support to creatives in the film sector implying that there is huge chance for governments and investors to help content creators tell their stories to the world and make a living out of it.
Unesco’s Africa Film Industry report 2021 says that a total of 30 out of Africa’s 54 countries do not have national film commissions or recognised audio-visual institutions that can offer their local talents guidance on fair usage rules and regulations, effectively making progress hard to achieve.
The industry is also dogged by a huge skills gap with degree programmes too few, far between and largely unable to meet the local industry needs.
The film curricula, Unesco adds, remains more theoretical than practical and is hardly keeping up with the dynamic pace of technological advancement in the developed world.
Some notable progress is, however, being witnessed, with Unesco saying: “in countries like Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Senegal, new generations of directors can now live off the income generated online by their work,” because digital cinematographic equipment are becoming more affordable.
The experience in some other countries is, however, different: “We did a study in Ethiopia and it just blew my mind how hard it was for some of the practitioners to import the equipment they needed and the luxury taxes that were applied. We need to remove all those kinds of barriers so that it can really grow and generate revenue for the country,” notes Mehret Mandefro, Realness Institute’s director of development and partnerships.
Realness Institute is a pan-African cinema organisation that is working in partnership with Netflix to scale up the skills of screenwriters and film professionals in Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya, as part of their paid 2022 Episodic Lab and Development Executive Traineeship programmes.
“Apart from regional players such as Showmax and myCanal, there are few local success stories. Local players do not have the resources to compete against the global players, but they do have the advantage of producing local content. Success for them may rely on them supplying the global players rather than going it alone with their own platforms,” said Simon Murray, Digital TV Research’s principal analyst notes.
As competition hots up in Africa, the reality is that doing business is challenging, something that MultiChoice has learned over the last three decades.
The entertainment giant has been running MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF), a platform where creative industry players in Africa sharpen their film making talent while engaging with one another through shared passions.
The MTF has trained 206 students over the past six years and 62 MTF graduates now own their own production companies.
A total of 74 interns from 14 countries across Africa created four movies, 16 short films and 14 Public Service Announcements for the United Nations’ #PLEDGETOPAUSE campaign and the World Health Organization’s educational campaign on COVID-19, Mutichoice says.
London-based consultancy firm, Digital TV Research, projects that Africa will have over 13.7 million video on demand subscriptions by 2027, up from the 4.9 million recorded by December 2021.
However, the real game changer for the African film and audiovisual industry is the ongoing digital revolution, which started some 20 years ago but was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unable to go to church, weddings, funerals, the malls, the theatres or even to meet up with friends and family in social places, millions of people adopted video streaming services to keep themselves entertained.