By Ogova Ondego
Published March 16, 2014
Players in the motion pictures, media, culture and the arts sectors in East African Community member states of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi have established a network to help with the region’s integration, socio-economic development and youth employment.
Though the directors of film festivals, film, film studies and culture who met in the Tanzanian diplomatic town of Arusha March 12-14, 2014 had set out to ‘form a Forum that includes film festivals and filmmakers from within the East African Community Partner States’, they ended up with an all-inclusive and non-limiting ‘Film’ body to promote and advance the ‘film industry’—not just ‘film festivals’.
East African Film Network (EAFN), the organisation that was created, is expected to champion the development of film, culture and the arts in the region and shall be ‘independent of any governmental institution’ though its support is expected to come ‘from the EAC’.
Jessica Eriyo, EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors –in an address read by Richard Othieno Owora who heads the Corporate Communication and Public Affairs docket at EAC during the opening of the conference—pledged the support of the EAC to the gathering as it ‘further strengthens the existing cooperation between the EAC and other state and non-state actors towards building a stronger East African Community through the Arts and Culture’.
Eriyo noted that the symposium was ‘in line with Article 119 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community, The Common Market Protocol and the Development Strategy (2010 – 2016), all of which provide for the fostering of Public–Private sectors Partnership towards the development of Culture and Creative industries in the EAC’.
Though Film has great potential in alleviating poverty and in creating employment for young people, the Deputy Secretary General noted, EAC is aware of the critical challenges facing the sector; such as low capacity, under-developed infrastructure, inadequate financing and copyright infringement, among others.
By the end of the third day, participants had drafted and adopted the constituting statutes of the EAFN and elected an interim board of directors to steer the initial activities of the Network.
Those elected to the interim steering committee are Leonce Ngabo (Chair, Festival International Du Cinema et Audio Visual Du Burundi, Burundi); Martin Mhando (Vice-Chair , Zanzibar International Film Festival, Tanzania); Feisal Malik (General Secretary, Visual Africa Productions, Kenya,); James Owaraga (Treasurer, Uganda); and Thierry Gatete (Legal Advisor, Kwetu Film Institute, Rwanda).
Representatives of Partner States are Ogova Ondego (Lola Kenya Screen, Kenya), Phad Mutumba (Nile’s Diaspora Film Festival, Uganda), Mary Birdi (Arusha African Film Festival, Tanzania), Tresor Senga (1000 Hills Academy Awards, Rwanda), and Papy Ndikumana (Filmmaker, Burundi).
The delegates who signed the Report of the proceedings of the 1st Preparatory Film Festivals/Filmmakers Forum that established EAFN on behalf of their countries were Aghan Odero Agan (Executive Director, Kenya Cultural Centre, Kenya); Professor Hermas JM Mwansoko (Director of Culture Development, Tanzania); Francis Ojede (Executive Director, Uganda National Cultural Centre, Uganda); Tresor Senga (Director General, A Thousand Hills Academy Awards, Rwanda); and Leonard Sinzinkayo (Director of Culture, Burundi).
Besides directors of film festivals, directors of culture, directors of film and professionals in the media, communication, information and academia, also present at the 1st Preparatory Film Festivals/Filmmakers Forum that was convened by EAC Secretariat and German Development Cooperation (GIZ) on behalf of the Partner States were officials from Government Ministries responsible for Information, Youth, Culture, Sports and EAC Affairs in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
Meanwhile, EAC is undertaking a regional mapping study of culture and creative industries—Film inclusive—to determine their contribution to the regional economies and identifying the main challenges that must be addressed to unleash their full potential; that Film within the EAC is going to benefit from the ongoing processes for implementation of the EAC Common market Protocol particularly as Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) are eliminated to facilitate free movement of Persons, Goods and Services in the region; EAC is establishing a regional Culture Trust Fund to support Arts and Culture initiatives; and that EAC will use its advocacy function to lobby and mobilise resources from local and international development Partners willing to support the EAC Film industry.