Sarit Center, Nairobi
Oct 9-12, 2024

The African Film Industry: Growth and Challenges

“Cinema is magic in the service of dreams.” Djibril Diop Mambety

The African film industry is a contemporary canvas saturated with the ancient ink of storytelling. For millennials, African societies have been painting narratives, not simply as a mode of expression or entertainment but as a way of cataloging history, transferring knowledge, and binding the community. These tales, once performed by griots and shared in communal ceremonies, have found their transplantation venue on our screens. The developmental path from the enactment of stories and verbal transfer to modern African cinematography reflects the need to stay true to one’s identity, preserve tradition, and develop simultaneously. Hence, current African cinema remains primarily based on primitive storytelling practices while absorbing global peculiarities.

African Film Industry
Behind the scenes of movie production in Africa. Picture courtesy:

The African film industry is a lighthouse, designed to showcase the continent’s capability for development. When Nollywood of Nigeria started producing films at a rapid pace, which now makes a total of almost 2,500 films every year, Africa was able to claim a spot on the map as a movie industry. The digital era has cannibalized the film domain and created an environment that allows the younger African generation to penetrate and be on par with the film business with their convincing narratives and passion for cinema. In this article, the author intends to highlight the obstacles that African cinema faces while at the same time commemorating the progress that has been made in an industry full of life and vibrance.

The african film industry: A story of growth and resilience
  • Economic and Employment Milestones: The African film industry has transformed into a vital economic player, providing jobs to millions and making a substantial contribution to the continent’s GDP. This is one of the key indicators of its survival and potential for further expansion.
  • Employment and Economic Impact: An estimated number of jobs related directly to film production exceeds 5 million positions, while the contribution of that industry equals US$5 billion to the continent’s gross domestic product. In other words, this industry acts as one of the key economic drivers.
  •  Production Volume: Nollywood, which is Nigeria’s film experience, can be described as one of the brightest examples of production expansion and success. I can explain this situation by citing the fact that Nollywood releases around 2,500 films on an annual basis. This number is almost equivalent to the production rate of one average and well-developed cinematographic industry around the world.
  • Technological Advancements and Global Recognition: One of the critical elements of that success is explained by the fact that digital technology reduces costs and access to the material and allows for promoting African stories and images in Africa and beyond.
  • International Acclaim: The increasing recognition of African filmmakers at international film festivals and awards is a clear indicator of the industry’s growing influence and the universal appeal of its narratives.
  • Cultural Influence: The stories depicted in African cinema are deeply rooted in the continent’s traditions and history, offering a unique perspective that enriches the global film narrative.
Persistent hurdles in african cinema

Although there have been significant achievements, the African film industry faces several obstacles that prevent it from fulfilling its full potential. These are as follows:

  • Funding and Investment: Many filmmakers cannot access the necessary financing, whether it comes from local or international sources.
  • Infrastructure and Equipment: The industry lacks studios, cinemas, and digital platforms necessary to ensure adequate support for film production and exhibition.
  • Piracy is a major contributor to revenue losses. According to reports, the industry loses 50 to 75 percent of its potential earnings due to piracy.
  • Intellectual Property: protecting the intellectual property rights of film makers is quite challenging.
  • Training and Education: There is a need for more professional training and training opportunities for developing the skills of aspiring filmmakers
  • Gender Equality and Freedom of Expression: These social issues are critical for ensuring a diverse and inclusive industry that represents all voices
  • Preservation of Archives: The safeguarding of film archives is essential for preserving the historical and cultural heritage of African cinema for future generations

Addressing these challenges is crucial for the continued growth and success of the industry i.e efforts from governments, private entities, and international organizations are needed to overcome them

Envisioning the future of african cinema

The journey of the African film industry is a blend of both good and bad. However, It is evident that the industry has made impressive advancements and succeeded in presenting the cultural heritage of Africa in film. However, the road to greatness is still thorny, and it is necessary to have the mentioned issues resolved to ensure that the creative and cultural potentials of this bright land are fully utilized.

African Film Industry
Behind-the-scenes production of Reyka. Picture courtesy: Patrick Toselli

The African film industry stands at a crossroads, with the power to shape its destiny through strategic action and international cooperation. As we look to the future, there is every reason to believe that African cinema will continue to rise, dazzle, and inspire upcoming generations.

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