UNESCO promotes African cinema with launch of new report

On 5 October 2021 UNESCO launched a new report The African Film Industry: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities for Growth .


Published with the support of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, the report presents the first complete mapping of Africa’s film and audiovisual industries, which currently employ an estimated 5 million people and accounts for $5 billion in GDP. 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.


“More than ever, international cooperation is fundamental in the face of multiple challenges which strain the potential of the film industry in Africa,” underlined Ernesto Ottone R., UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture. “National reforms must be followed by regional and continental approaches,” he added.


The report highlights that many aspects of the film and audiovisual industry remain informal, with only 44% of countries having an established film commission and 55% of countries having a film policy. Other challenges include piracy and intellectual property, education and training, internet connectivity, gender equality, and freedom of expression.


The event included three round tables focusing on film production, investment, and institutional support in Africa. Speakers included leading industry representatives and distinguished film-makers Abderrahmane Sissako and Mati Diop among others.


Abderrahmane Sissako, Director of the award-winning film Timbuktu (2014) welcomed the report, stating “the sharing of knowledge, including the key findings of the report, can serve as an engine for the future of African cinema.”


Reflecting on the increasing importance of online platforms in the distribution and consumption of films, South-African Producer Steven Markovitz noted that further investment in internet connectivity would enable online opportunities to wider film professionals across the African continent. “One of the biggest challenges is Internet infrastructure. We cannot underestimate this limitation and how it’s affecting the dissemination of African films”, he said.


Another key challenge addressed during the debates was the safeguarding of Africa’s film and audiovisual archives. Aboubakar Sanogo, Executive Secretary of the Fédération panafricaine des cinéastes (FEPACI), said “to move forward, we need to also look back. The memory of African cinema must be available to also train the new generation of filmmakers so they have African filmmakers as models of what cinema can be.”


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.


The report will be presented in Ougadogodu, Burkina Faso, on 21 October as part of the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) and in November at the Carthage Film Festival in Tunis.