Launch of EU/UNESCO project to support the development of Uganda’s Film Industry

UNESCO and European Union (EU) have partnered with the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to launch a joint project on 24 September 2020 to support the development of the film sector in Uganda.

The year-long project will boost local content development and professionalization of the film sector in Uganda by creating tax incentive measures and developing skills and networking through the creation and strengthening of professional film associations.

Speaking at the project’s official launch in Kampala, the Permanent Secretary at the Uganda Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Mr. James Ebitu said the project is a timely step towards achieving Government’s goal for culture as a major driver for economic development over the next five years, as put forth in the National Development Plan and the Social Development Sector Plan for 2020-2025. “The project will complement other existing Government policies and initiatives geared towards the building of a strong domestic film industry that will solve Uganda’s youth unemployment problem, earn the country millions of dollars in foreign exchange and spearhead the shaping of local content and national identity.” he said.

According to the project’s Focal Person, the Commissioner, Culture and Family Affairs at the Ministry, Ms. Naumo Juliana Akoryo, a National Team of 30 representatives of various Film Guilds and Ministries, Department and Agencies has been set up, and a work plan crafted to ensure that challenges faced by the film industry are addressed under the project.

Addressing attendees at the launch of the project, Ms. Anna Merrifield, the European Union Delegation Chargée d’Affaires a.i., stressed the importance of ensuring that “legislation and policy reform of the film industry guarantee freedom of expression and room for independent film makers.”

During her opening remarks, the Secretary-General of the Uganda National Commission for UNESCO, Ms. Rosie Agoi, highlighted how one of the goals of the UNESCO 2005 Convention for Cultural Diversity is to ensure a balanced flow of cultural goods and services.  “We need to ensure we have Ugandan films at the theatre, Ugandan music on the radio, Ugandan books in the library, Ugandan art in the museums—and we also need to ensure we have a diversity of cultural goods from other countries, so that we are not only seeing American or Bollywood films, but we can see Kenyan films and hear Brazilian music and watch Indoneisan theatre,” she said.

The Director and Representative of the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, Ms. Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, who was unable to attend the launch due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lauded the initiative and underscored the importance of recognizing the culture and creative sector as a driver for sustainable economic development.

The Ugandan film project is part of a global UNESCO programme funded by the European Union entitled: EU/UNESCO Expert Facility on the Governance of Culture in Developing Countries: Support for new regulatory frameworks to strengthen the cultural and creative industries and promote South-South cooperation, which is benefitting: Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Gabon, Georgia, Jamaica, Mexico, Namibia, Palestine, Panama, South Sudan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Through an overall budget of EUR1.72M, the programme seeks to support developing countries, which are Parties to the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression. Ratified by Uganda in 2015, the UNESCO 2005 Convention recognizes the right of Governments to create an enabling environment for the development of dynamic cultural and creative industries by adopting progressive regulatory frameworks.

Following a preliminary research by the project’s team of experts, a number of interventions have been suggested for further development during the project. These include: the establishment of a national film fund, consolidation of film regulations under one State Agency, establishment of a tax rebates/cash system, and promotion of equity investment in film, etc. Over the course of the project, these measures will be further scrutinized and developed in consultation with various industry experts, practitioners and stakeholders during the project before they can be adopted and implemented by Government.

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