The African Creative Economy in a time of Covid 19
By Addy Kudita
Despite the economic and social carnage precipitated by Covid-19 lockdown regulations, some African motion picture creatives must be gleefully twiddling their thumbs even as the rest of their counterparts throughout the world rue the effects of the pandemic. Why is that? Because of global players such as Netflix who are in the hunt for African storytelling. Several film producers from countries such as South Africa, Nigeria and Zimbabwe have inked deals with Netflix in both new commissions and licensing arrangements.
(Insert picture of Kagiso Lediga and Pearl Thusi here ).
Take Zimbabwe’s ‘Cook Off’ for example. Produced by the production duo of Joe Njagu and Tom Brickhill, the movie marked a watershed moment for the country’s fledgling film industry and served as a proverbial silver living. The country’s economy has been in the doldrums for over a decade. “ Man, this development is massive for us in the business,” says Kudzai Chikomo a film maker (who has supplied content to Multichoice Africa) based in the Southern African country’s second largest city of Bulawayo whilst on the set of his upcoming production. “It gives us the impetus to produce and compete out there.” His outfit Film & Television Resources is shooting a comedy during this lockdown period and maintains that he has had to observe the Covid 19 regulation rules. He had to get a police clearance to be allowed to shoot. Chikomo was however quick to explain that because of the new ‘normal’ his movements together with the crew and sets have had to be constricted. On a wing and a prayer these creatives soldier on even as the risk of Covid 19 infection hovers like a dark cloud in the bar room film set.
(pictures of Joe Njagu, Tom Brickhill and Chikomo on set)
Diversifying the African economy
Whilst the continent is mineral rich, and countries like Nigeria and Zimbabwe rely heavily on their natural resource endowments such as oil, farming and gold; to mention a few, economic experts have long called for diversification of African economies as a matter of prudence. The place of the creative and cultural industries in terms of potential contribution to national GDPs and job creation can hardly be underestimated. The African Union’s vision and policy framework to stimulate socio-economic development, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), stresses the urgency for the continent to “find ways to diversify their economies, namely by boosting non-traditional sectors; expanding their range of products and exports; and engaging with new economic and development partners.”
Questions arise as to just how sustainable it is for film industry players to resume working and delivering content during this time of the ‘new normal’. Meanwhile, even as the opportunity that the likes of Netflix offers beckons but so does Covid 19.
*State of the Culture is a syndicated column by Addy Kudita, a Zimbabwe based African international multimedia journalist, creative and analyst of over twenty years’ experience. He can be contacted via twitter: amkudita or email: [email protected]