Kudzanai Sharara in Cairo, Egypt
The planned launch of a US$1 billion film fund by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) to support the continent’s film industry will go a long way in improving Zimbabwe’s film industry, a leading filmmaker has said.
Mrs Kanayo Awani, Executive Vice President, Intra-African Trade Bank, at Afreximbank, announced in Cairo today (10 November 2023) that the Africa and Caribbean focused lender is working on the establishment of a $1-billion African Film Fund to be launched in 2024 to support the continent’s film industry.
Addressing the opening of the 2023 CANEX Summit held as part of the third Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2023), Mrs. Awani said that the fund would oversee film financing, co-finance with large studios, finance African filmmakers and finance producers and directors of film projects across the continent.
She noted that during CANEX WKND 2022, the Bank had increased the financing it was making available to the creative sector from US$500 million to US$1 billion and that the Bank currently had a pipeline of over US$600 million in film, music, visual arts, fashion, and sports deal.
“The very first film we financed recently premiered at the Toronto Film Festival,” Mrs. Awani said, adding, “The Bank has several in the pipeline from Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya, which should be on streaming platforms in 2024.”
Acknowledging that the film and audiovisual industries in Africa accounted for US$5 billion of the continent’s GDP and employed an estimated five million people, with the potential to create over 20 million jobs and generate US$20 billion in revenues annually, Mrs. Awani noted that the sector faced several challenges, including limited access to financing and copyright infringement due to weak copyright laws, enforcement mechanisms and a lack of awareness.
The sector was also confronted with infrastructure and technology gaps, lack of capacity and shortage of skilled professionals and limited market access and international exposure, as a result of which African creative and cultural products often struggle to gain exposure and access to international markets.
Upon hearing about the planned fund, Joe Njagu, a Zimbabwean filmmaker who produced the first Zimbabwean film to be acquired by Netflix, said such a fund if accessed by the Zimbabwe film industry
“would go a long way in improving the local film sector”.
Responding to this publication by WhatsApp from his base in Zimbabwe, Njagu said access to such a fund “will allow access to state of the art equipment and studio facilities which in turn will make local films have a higher production value”.
“Construction of film studios will also help to boost the sector. So if this is extended to Zimbabwe it will be a big welcome development for the sector. Filmmaking requires lots of money but also gives big returns when done right,” Njagu said.
Also speaking in Cairo, H.E. Albert M. Muchanga, Commissioner for Trade and Industry of the African Union Commission, said that the creative sector in Africa was rapidly growing and making a significant contribution to the inclusive growth and sustainable development of African economies.
“I reaffirm my belief that the African creative industry has huge potential to be a source of employment and revenue to create the Africa we want – revenue from intra-African trade as well as revenue from the rest of the world.”
Ambassador Muchanga urged African nations to convert their vast potential into plans and projects that yield tangible results, stressing the need to also invest in protecting international property rights.