The African Story has always been ready for the global market

16 November 2018

There has always been an interest globally for the African story told by Africans on the world stage. Technology is making it a lot easier for content producers and filmmakers to export their productions.

This was the overwhelming sentiment shared by a panel of experts at the three-day Africa Com Conference and Exhibition. Africa Com is the largest African telecoms, media & technology event and it took place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre last week. Hosted in Cape Town for the last 21 years, the conference brings together 14 000 delegates, 450 speakers and 400 exhibitors to share ideas on connectivity, disruptive technologies and ICT strategies among others.

This year, the event featured a variety of panels including a discussion on distributing African content, particularly film and video, across the world. On the dais for the conversation was independent film producer Carol Kioko, managing partner at uCast Global Bakori Davis and African media expert Biola Alabi. The panellists touched on a number of issues including giving Africans a voice to portray true Africa to the rest of the world, producing African content to international standards for the global market, exporting African content in the digital age and viable OTT (Over-The-Top) services for the African diaspora.

Kioko stressed that African filmmakers didn’t have one rigid narrative to tell but rather a range of stories which showcase the continent’s diversity.

“Everyone keeps talking about Black Panther and that was just someone’s perception of the continent, so now when we actually tell our own stories imagine what could happen. I think it’s wonderful that we’re in a space where we don’t have to think twice; if the quality is good and it can travel…it is most likely going to sell,” Kioko told the audience gathered for the session. Responding to a question about what appears to be a growing interest in African content; Davis argued there was always a “strong interest”.

“I think there’s been a fascination with what’s not your own and Africa being a huge draw for many people globally. I think access and discovery is creating more demand and when you know you have access to something (good) you want more of it.

“The increase and the change that we’re seeing is more a dynamic of the industry than people just suddenly wanting African content,” Davis said.

Promoting work to the global market

Davis added that the advancement of technology was starting to play a bigger role in the process.
“There’s marketing, word of mouth and social media but one example with technology is that recommendation engines are really getting better and more sophisticated about how we can put forward content to encourage discovery.

“As that evolves, we can take whatever is the biggest thing in Africa and promote it on a site in Asia. Those types of cross promotion across territories are becoming a much bigger thing as the algorithms get better and that will become more permanent,” Davis said.

The panellists also touched on the need for transformation and an improved focus on development especially training of scriptwriters.

Kioko said Africa had some of the best technically skilled behind-the-scenes crews who met international best practice standards.

“But we need to develop good writers because the ideas are there. I get scripts all the time but I’m always like ‘but I cannot make this film’…yes, it’s a good idea but I’m going to have to put in so much time and money into development to get it to the level of international standard,” she said.

Alabi, who is also the CEO of Nigeria-based production company Biola Alabi Media, said this could be achieved by channelling funds to support the film industry.

“We have to (develop) these creative hubs around the continent, train people and for people to understand story.

“We need investments in training. We can do in-house training but I think we need more investment in training,” Alabi said.

She said these “creative pipelines” would lead to richer quality content not only for African film but also television series, shorter format productions and commercials.