Dar es Salaam. The 21st edition of the Zanzibar International Film Festival kicked off in Zanzibar last weekend and Stone Town has been a busy place as filmmakers cross each other’s paths in Stone Town.
Organised under the theme Speak Up Be heard, the festival has attracted guests from across the world including actor Jacky Ido.
Plenty has been on offer at both the amphitheatre and other viewing centres across Zanzibar where over 150 films have been on offer with more yet to come especially the South African Day.
But while the films have been hilarious with an illustrious guest list gracing the festival, the launch of Discop Zanzibar, a new initiative designed toward boosting the fast-growing content business in Africa was one of the highlights of the week.
The launch of the Zanzibar edition follows a successful launch of Discop markets in Johannesburg (South Africa), Abidjan (Ivory Coast), and Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.
In a market that has in the recent past been plagued with several issues from distribution to sales, Discop Zanzibar provides a unique opportunity of unlocking African content market, more especially Eastern Africa.
Exhibitors have come from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa and many other African countries to showcase and sell their content to the yawning world of entertainment.
According to organisers, Discop Zanzibar, which is the only content market in Eastern Africa, provides content makers with a platform to market their products closer to home. The exhibition space has focused on developing the regional industry, producer and delegate badge options are priced to make them as accessible as possible.
“All delegates once registered, they are matched with relevant industry players depending on their specific business needs and goals,” Lara Preston told the Beat in an earlier interview.
Speaking at the opening of Discop this week, the ZIFF chairman Mahmoud Thabit Kombo said it was a historic event given the kind of history that ZIFF has had in the past two decades. “For the past 21 years ZIFF has celebrated films and cultures of the dhow countries. It has also rightfully taken its place as a leading voice in promoting Kiswahili through film. With over 300 million Swahili speakers in Africa, the market for locally produced content is a massive one just waiting to be serviced,” he says.
According to him this is a market that cannot be ignored anymore and the coming of Discop only underscores how the industry has become a money spinner.
“The numbers from the industry speaks for its self and there are only a few organisations such as Discop that can see this potential and the value that this market presents,” he says.
He adds: In Nigeria Nollywood film productions generate between $500 million and $800 million annually, employing 300,000 people directly and more than a million indirectly.
According to a Price Water Coopers’ report which was released last year the Kenyan entertainment and media market was worth some $1 billion in 2016 and is set to hit the $ 3 billion mark by 2020. The same report predicts that Tanzania’s pay TV subscription will nearly double by 2021 grossing a total of $271 million.
Marc Berry from Los Angeles California is Discop’s exhibitor relations manager is also at the exhibition and according to him they are looking forward to accelerating production and marketing in Africa and the Middle East.
Speaking to The Beat Marc Berry said Africa in recent years has curved itself as one of the lucrative content market with almost 70 countries.
“With a growing middle class population there are all the indicators that point towards a brighter future especially in video entertainment which has been aided with the availability of the internet,” says Berry.
He adds: Within the next five years, the Sub-Saharan African marketplace is expected to grow by 35 per cent and become the fastest-growing world region for entertainment content business.
According to him that growth “will be driven by original, multi-platform entertainment content produced in Africa, reinforced trade between sub-Saharan African countries, and intra-regional co-production initiatives.
“People from Tanzania are not going to go to Sweden to sell their content; they’re going to stay in Africa because that’s where their prime market is, “he says.
The platform is also hosting the Next Gen which is aimed at a fast-rising breed of talented, multicultural, independent minded, world-trotting film, television, digital producers and programmers operating in Africa.
The Next Gen program is tailored to help them broaden their expertise, get new projects off the ground, pitch innovative ideas, find new concepts and distribution, and rub shoulders with key industry players, influencers and trendsetters.
Nextgen program include panels on improving the performance and efficiencies of film commissions, the importance of Swahili content, and animation and VR amongst other topics. The recently launched Discore program with a focus on the importance of music and synch deals within the content space. A focus on East African music and composers will see the inclusion of the East African music industry. But as organiser speak so highly about the potential that the exhibition has on turning the industry’s fortunes, concern has been raised on the number of Tanzanian content producers at the event. According to the outgoing ZIFF chairman Mahmoud Kombo, Tanzanian content producers cannot let this kind of opportunity slip through their fingers and it would be a big mistake for them to do so.
“Discop has its headquarters in Los Angeles and they have been instrumental in several markets before such as Hollywood and Bollywood that is why I can’t understand why there are very few local content producers here,” he says.
The no show has not been limited to Discop alone, the number of local filmmakers and actors who have turned up is quite low despite the potential that the festival has given its 21-year-track record.