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Africa film industries can create 20 million jobs – UNESCO

...But potential remains untapped

Africa’s film industry could contribute $20 billion to the continent’s revenue and also employ 20 million Africans but its potentials remain untapped, according to a report by UNESCO.

African countries have some of the highest unemployment rates in the world with South Africa and Namibia rank the highest with 34.4 percent and 33.4 respectively while Nigeria ranks third-highest with the unemployment rate at 33.3 percent.

Despite its huge potentials, piracy, limitations on freedom of expression, and poor internet connectivity continue to hinder growth.

According to the report, Africa is the most underserved continent in terms of movie theatres. Currently, there is only one cinema screen per 787,402 people.

Most creative industries in Africa are grossly underserved, in part due to the failure of policymakers and local authorities to protect and invest in audio-visual industries, the report stated.

The UNESCO report estimates that 50 percent to over 75 percent of revenue is lost to piracy, though precise data does not exist. Additionally, just 19 out of 54 African countries offer financial support to filmmakers.

“Africa’s potential as a film powerhouse remains largely untapped, despite significant growth in production across the continent, the report argues. Nigeria alone produces around 2,500 films a year,”

Nigeria’s Nollywood is the second largest film producer globally in terms of value, number of annual films, revenue, and popularity, second only to India’s Bollywood.

The industry’s radical growth in movie production occurred in 2020 when the pandemic hit and cinemas were shut.

Read also: Nigerian film industry can produce content of global quality- Ihidero

Nollywood produced 635 movies in the second quarter of 2021 compared to 626 movies produced in the same period last year. Its growth in Q2 is the highest compared to the same period in previous years.

The sector has been identified as one of the priority sectors in the 2017 2020 Economic Recovery and Growth plan because it represents a potential growth driver for the economy. However, its growth has been limited by piracy

“Piracy tops the list of film industry’s many challenges fuelled by weak enforcement of Nigeria’s copyright law. In the digital era of today, piracy has morphed into illegal download and distribution of movies without paying for them. Other challenges include lack of financing, poor infrastructure, and inadequate capacity,” analysts at FBNQuest said.

Ernesto Ottone, Unesco’s assistant director-general for culture also explained that a significant concern was that much of the money generated by African film industries do not go back into local economies, the report said. Two-thirds of African countries acknowledged that more than half of the proceeds were lost to illegal avenues such as piracy. “Creatives do not receive copyright payment in return for their work. There needs to be much stronger legislation,” he said.

30 of Africa’s 54 countries lacked national film commissions or recognized audio-visual institutions that can champion creatives and fair usage rules, the report said, making reforms hard to achieve.

The report outlines further challenges in the African film industry, including limitations on freedom of expression, as well as education, training, and internet connectivity.

Unesco’s director-general Audrey Azoulay said in the report, “We need to strengthen international cooperation to enable film-makers of all countries to express themselves and develop viable and competitive cultural and creative industries.”

“We must raise our voice to reaffirm that films are indeed ‘public goods’ that require public support and investment to ensure equal access to creation, production, distribution, dissemination, and consumption,” she said.

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