Comesa states should plan for an integrated regional film ecosystem

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The Government in partnership with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) recently hosted the third edition of Kenya Trade Week. It brought together 21 member states across the regional bloc. Themed, Powering regional integration, the trade week discussions were centred on policy, digitisation, sustainable financing and agribusiness, among other issues regarding the creation of a regional trade infrastructure.In future editions of the trade week, conveners should put into consideration the lucrative creative economy which can add value to the discussion of specific sessions and, hopefully, unravel the untapped opportunities in unconventional sectors in relation to trade and economic diplomacy.The platform will provide an arena for filmmakers, experienced and upcoming, to converge and brainstorm how best to create, establish and promulgate a creative economy through an integrated regional film ecosystem.

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By powering regional integration towards a regional film ecosystem, stakeholders within the film industry would make reference to the recommendations drawn during the inaugural International Film Convention, 2017, hosted by Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) in conjunction with the French Embassy in Nairobi, the European Union delegation in Kenya and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and build on the various key takeouts to come up with a concrete regional creative arts policy framework.The framework will map out regionally integrated strategies for film content production, exhibition, distribution, marketing, co-production as well as filmprenuership ventures within the Comesa region, driven by electronic commerce (e-commerce) platforms.Borderless transferTo create synergy on available markets, filmmakers can leverage on borderless transfer of distribution channels provided by e-commerce to serve as a catalyst for propelling the cultural and creative sectors that directly contribute to the realisation of cultural diplomacy.The pedagogy of film for example knowledge-based cultural and creative development; apprenticeship, application of artificial intelligence in film and use of data analytics in film study would go a long way in revamping the outlook in which the creative economy has been perceived regionally.

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What is more, film business development, structuring innovative funding models and investment strategies whilst advocating for invention and innovation in various facets of the art of film will provide more sustainable job opportunities for the youth and women. Importantly, this will catalyse the playfield for all filmmakers regionally through the interconnected regional film ecosystem.What is more, through diversification, the e-commerce platforms can propel participatory citizenship engagement culturally and promote cultural inclusion, equality, diversity and the freedom of creative expression on the regional front. Most importantly, safeguarding the dynamic development of those cultural characteristics, including intellectual, linguistic, traditional and folklore which identifies diversity of our various African cultures.Academic cohortsThe interconnected regional film ecosystem will in the long-term inspire an increase in the number of young people studying the arts thus equipping them with relevant skills to manage their own film production ventures.Correspondingly, growth and development a sustainable film industry will increase clustering and networking among film practitioners and film students, hence prospects for stronger association and film academic cohorts.With a stronger film industry, creative investments opportunities and funding can be actively lobbied for locally and internationally. Business development training and mentorship creates desire sequence and continuity in film which can be improved to meet the changing demands of the dynamic business environment.Furthermore, film practice can be in pole position to spur public and private partnerships in the respective member states of Africa and its affiliated regional economic bloc with film as the key centre of interest.Increased international presence and strategic position can enhance market penetration and access. Closer collaborations between institutions of higher learning, public agencies and industry professionals can draft policy papers that can be anchored in law for today and posterity.The birth of an integrated film ecosystem is a whole-of-government effort – requiring articulation consensus of the stakeholders in the creative arts industry and harmonised political will.Significantly, if birthed, the International Film Convention would also become a regionally coordinated event to be hosted by the Comesa member states annually to review the implementation of the integrated film ecosystem.Ms Marangu is a Communications Specialist

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ComesaCommon Market for Eastern and Southern AfricaPowering regional integration