By William A. Asiedu
DESPITE the lack of domestic investment and the obvious unimpressive attitude of the political leadership in Africa towards the arts and tourism sectors, the two industries still hold a huge potential for accelerating the growth and ultimate transformation of the African economy.
After America’s Hollywood, it is reported that Nigeria’s Nollywood is the world’s second largest film industry, making about 2000 movies a year.
It was, therefore, refreshing to learn from a report published by the Southern Times of South Africa that global streaming giant, Netflix, was investing a colossal amount of US8 billion in the Nigerian movie industry, following its successful deal with super star actress, Genevieve Nnaji, to purchase the worldwide rights to Lionheart, which she directed.
That is good news, which must encourage all movie-makers to put in more efforts to give customers best all-round quality productions, while the political leaders and the business community also invest more capital in the industry.
It also behoves the media to stop creating fault lines by unnecessarily pitting one African country’s movie/entertainment industry and its players against another, as it sometimes happens in the case of Ghana and Nigeria.
We are one (African) people and Ghana should take advantage of Nigeria’s huge market while Nigeria also takes advantage of the rich human resources and training facilities in Ghana for the mutual benefits of both countries. This must be the focus of the larger African arts and tourism industry.
The many telenovelas flooding our television channels are always presented generally as Latino productions and not as Mexican, Colombian, Argentine, Bolivian, Brazilian, Chilean, Colombian or Ecuadorian shows, so really, it is not necessary for us in Africa to literally compete for our individual country’s supremacy in the arts, tourism and culture space but rather work together for our shared gains.
According to United Nations, estimates and reports on worldpopulationreview.com, Africa is the second most populous continent in the world with a population of over 1.2 billion people living in 54 countries.
Indeed, as of Saturday, November 3, 2018, the population of Africa was reported to be equivalent to 16.64% of the total world population.
In 2013, Africa was identified as the world’s poorest inhabited continent. Four years later, the African Development Bank reported that Africa’s economy was the second fastest-growing in the world.
Indeed, a number of international business observers have also named Africa as the future economic growth engine of the world and many have noted that tourism and the arts, especially movies, can be the fuel for the continent’s growth engine.
So there is actually a huge market out there on the continent to take care of all the productions from the various countries.
However, rolling out world-class African movies calls for skilled professionals, who can use modern technology and a perfect understanding of the multiple cultures of the peoples of Africa to tell compelling stories that will wow the world and engender huge patronage of movies from the continent.
These professionals must also have a perfect grasp of the business of movie-making to ensure that they reap the maximum financial benefits from their toil.
This is where MultiChoice, operators of the DSTv Satellite Television service, must be commended greatly for introducing the MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) programme, which is designed to offer African talents theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience in cinematography, film editing, audio production, storytelling etc.
In May this year, MultiChoice called for entries for the MFT and recruited 60 talents out of over 3000 applicants. Twenty of the selected aspiring filmmakers were from Ghana and Nigeria (West Africa).
In October, the West African Academy of the MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF), which is being run in partnership with the Pan Atlantic University, was officially opened in Lagos by Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr. Ziblim Barri Iddi, and the Lagos State Commissioner of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Steve Ayorinde.
The West African MTF Academy is expected to provide Africa’s next generation of film and television storytellers from Ghana and Nigeria with a 12-month training programme.
Speaking at the launch, Dr. Ziblim Barri Iddi was full of commendation for Multichoice, lauding the company for giving young African filmmakers across the continent an opportunity to understand the business of film production and the opportunity to enhance their skills.
“Our founding fathers saw the importance of film and television as a key tool for shaping the African narrative and thus laid the foundation for this sector to be an integral part of our growth agenda,” he said.
He charged the students to take full advantage of the opportunity given them over the next year.
To the Ghanaian representatives at the Lagos-based academy, Edmund Kobby Asamoah, Henry Konadu Denkyira, Irene Dumevi Yaamoakoa and Patience Esiawonam Adisenu, the Deputy Minister said, “the Ghanaian film industry requires highly skilled professionals with a keen eye for business to further open up our economy, and with an initiative like this, I am confident you will return fully equipped to contribute to revitalising filmmaking in Ghana.”
“The time for African governments to empower filmmakers across the continent is now; we need to support the sector more, as Nollywood has proven the industry is a sustainable foreign exchange earner,” he noted.
The West African MTF Academy will give the 20 students from Ghana and Nigeria the opportunity to hone their creative skills, thereby increasing the pool of world-class talent within the industry.
It will also teach them the business side of film and television, said Femi Odugbemi, West African Academy Director, MTF.
“We will be providing them with the skillset to ignite their passion, connect with industry professionals and tell authentic African stories through a comprehensive curriculum, comprising theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience in cinematography, editing, audio production and storytelling,” he added.
As Academy Director, “I will be preparing these candidates as future business owners who will, in turn, play their part in building the economy around the industry. It’s time that we not only reap the rewards of high-end quality TV and film products, but we also equally benefit from the investments behind the lens.”
It is the hope of all industry watchers that the current and future investments from Netflix and other companies, as well as the efforts of MultiChoice, to train young filmmakers would lead to the proper development of passionate entrepreneurs who will be well equipped with the requisite tools to make the business of filmmaking “happen big time” for Africa as a whole and its movie professionals in particular.
The Writer is the President of the Arts and Tourism Writers Association of Ghana (ATWAG) and the Managing Editor, Daily Heritage (www.dailyheritage.com.gh)