New UNESCO publication highlights growth potential of Africa’s film industry

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UNESCO celebrated African cinema from 5 to 7 October with the launch of the publication The African Film Industry: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities for Growth.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, alongside distinguished film makers Abderrahmane Sissako and Mati Diop, presented The African Film Industry publication, the first ever complete mapping of the continent’s film and audiovisual industries, which currently employs an estimated 5 million people and accounts for $5 billion in GDP across Africa. The publication contains strategic recommendations to help the sector achieve its estimated potential to create over 20 million jobs and contribute $20 billion to the continent’s combined GDP.
The report argues that this potential remains largely untapped despite the significant growth in production across the continent, where Nigeria, for example, produces around 2,500 films a year. While affordable digital film equipment and new online platforms that allow for direct distribution to consumers have given birth to a new economy for content creators, the report finds that Africa only has one cinema screen per 787,402 people, making it the most underserved continent in terms of movie theatres.
Piracy is another significant problem for the industry and although precise data does not exist, the report estimates that piracy waylays 50% to over 75% of the film and audiovisual industries’ revenue. The report furthermore highlights the fact that only 19 African countries out of 54 (35%) offer financial support to filmmakers.
The study also identifies persistent challenges affecting the industry, notably freedom of expression as industry professions in 47 countries report limitations on the issues that are able to handle in their creative work. Education, training and internet connectivity are also affecting the African film and audiovisual industries.
The publication is designed to help the film industry and decision-makers take stock of the present landscape and plan strategically for future growth.
“This landmark publication reflects on the importance of strengthening international cooperation to enable all countries, in particular developing countries, to develop cultural and creative industries that are viable and competitive both nationally and internationally” said the Director-General. “As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Cultural Diversity Declaration, we must raise our voice to reaffirm that films are indeed ‘public goods’ that require public support and investment to ensure equal access to creation, production, distribution/dissemination and consumption.”
The African Film Industry: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities for Growth is part of UNESCO’s contribution to the Year of Arts, Culture and Heritage of the African Union (2021) and to the celebration of 2021 as the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, declared by the United Nations. UNESCO’s action in favour of a dynamic creative economy, including the film industry, is in line with the policy framework espoused by the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and the 1980 Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist.

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