By Daisy Nandeche Okoti
Published July 9, 2015
In 2009, stakeholders in the television and audiovisual media sector of eastern Africa–Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Congo-Kinshasa–who met for a three-day summit in Nairobi in the framework of the 4th annual Lola Kenya Screen with the support of UNESCO, came up with the Eastern Africa Independent Television and Audiovisual Media Practitioners Plan of Action (The Nairobi Declaration) and IPO-Eastern Africa Network.
Among the primary recipients of the Nairobi Declaration in whose preparation were experts from Kenya, Spain, Nigeria, were: eastern African independent audiovisual media associations and training institutions, regional television broadcasters, regional government ministries and departments in charge of audiovisual media issues and the East African Community sections in charge of television, film and cultural affairs.
The three day summit (August 13-15, 2009) highlighted some of the main challenges that plague filmmaking in the continent while giving a contextual analysis of these problems and at the same time proposing solutions for these challenges with special attention to eastern Africa.
Some of the recurrent problems that affect all the countries in the sector include the lack of government policy to protect and give direction to the existing filmmakers. And where policies exist, the enforcement of such regulations is almost non-existent. This, the forum observed, not only leaves the filmmaker groping in the dark but also makes him susceptible to pirates who make it impossible for anyone to reap from one’s work. Adding to this challenge is the fact that television broadcasters do not prioritise the work of filmmakers in the region in their programing since such works are treated as inferior to those from other well-known filmmaking countries: USA, India, Mexico, Nigeria and even China and the Philippines!
Another recurrent problem affecting the region’s motion pictures sector is the lack of proper formal training occasioned by the lack of properly commissioned and equipped schools where aspiring filmmakers and even those who are already practising can get illumination into their trade to compete globally.
One of the propositions that the summit made to help counter the training challenge is to lobby governments to set up proper training schools as well as partner with other film organisations to sponsor training workshops in various filmmaking specialties.
Other challenges the summit identified as besetting movie-making across the continent include: lack of funds, disunity among practitioners, logistical challenges as well as political drawbacks such as instability and lack of security that limit the desirability of venturing into the sector by aspiring independent producers.
At the end of the summit, a platform known as IPO-Eastern Africa (ipo-easternafrica.net) was created to champion specialised developmental–children, youth, gender mainstreaming, climate change–filmmaking in the 13-country Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region. The platform is managed by Lola Kenya Screen in Nairobi.
While some of the propositions from these action plan have been realized, most of them are yet to take root and therein lies the reasons why the movie sector in the region is faced by the same challenges it has been experiencing for well over a century. The policy implementers in the region are therefore charged with the responsibility of going back to the drawing board and working closely with the proponents of this action plan to chart a clear way forward for the television and audiovisual media practitioners in the region.