Biola AlabiM-Net, a South Africa based TV company that also airs on DStv, has so far accepted more than 60 Ugandan movies to be screened to the whole world. Biola Alabi, the channel's managing director in Africa, recently visited Uganda and spoke to Julius Businge about the prospects for Uganda's film industry.
What did you intend to achieve from your visit to Uganda?
I'm here for two things, first to attend a stakeholder engagement meeting for film, movie producers, technicians, writers, camera men among others. This meeting aims at educating content providers on what Africa Magic is all about and what it hopes to achieve both in Uganda and on the continent.
We hope to work with them to find solutions that will help improve on the quality and type of content as well as improve their technical skills. Secondly, my visit is also aimed at promoting our new East Africa drama TV series called Kona, which will be airing on Africa Magic Entertainment Channel 151.
In your view, what opportunities are there in the Film and TV industry in Uganda?
These are many. On our side as M-net, investing in local content is vital because it exposes the beauty of Africa, our people and our culture. This is our pan-African objective. It is also creating a platform for content generated by Africans for Africans.
The opportunity available is to tell the African story and then collaborate with people like us to showcase that story to the continent on any of our channels. There is always a place on our Africa Magic channels for good stories, with good content and high entertainment value.
To a business person, does it make sense to invest in this industry in Africa?
Africa has tremendous resources in terms of local talent, content, and viewership that are waiting to be tapped into. Film producers such as Nollywood (Nigeria), Gollywood (Ghana) and others understand this and that is why they have invested heavily in the film and TV industry - a clear indication that telling an African story has economic gains.
We also believe it is quite profitable to invest in an industry with such big key players.The African market is growing, which is why we are also coming up with new channels all the time.
Several Ugandan movies have aired on M-Net in the recent past. What is your assessment of those movies in comparison with those from other African countries?
They have performed well because they have a reputable entertainment value and that is why we license them to run on our channel. We cannot license anything that has no entertainment value for the consumer.
What can be done for more Ugandan movies to be accepted on the M-Net channel?
There are common errors we usually see in content production, sound and picture quality that need to be rectified which is why we are here for two days.
What should Uganda do to harness the opportunities in the TV/Film industry more profitably?
The only thing you can ever do in this industry is to always tell a strong story-with strong scripts that resonate with your audience. The other benefits will come automatically.
Most experts say that lack of technical knowhow and financial capability remains key hindrances to content creation in this market. How have other countries overcome these challenges?
These challenges are common world over. Developing countries like Uganda need to learn from and collaborate with each other in order to counter some of these hindrances. These are major challenges but we don't need to concentrate on them instead we should look at embracing opportunities in the industry.
Copyright violation is a key concern in developing countries like Uganda. How can content producers be helped on that front?
Everywhere in the world there is piracy and the main issue here is to find ways of controlling the vice. It is better to work with relevant authorities to ensure that relevant laws are enforced.
It is also important to educate people on the dangers of piracy and how it negatively impacts the economy. So it is something we have to be involved in as content producers, regulators, government etc...
Where do you see the film industry in Africa in the next few years?
If you look at the film industry in Africa from a ten- year and 20-year perspective, I think we are going to see more innovation, seeing people delivering content on various platforms, having content on mobile gadgets (which we are already doing) among other innovations.
We will be telling more legacy stories and those (stories) that impact on our society where we live. The future though is bright and it will be supported by a growing global audience.
What management values do you regard as the most important?
Every leader values dedication, commitment, hard work, and every manager values people who are looking for ways to make things better in a company, organization or in any other institution.
What is your last word to the stakeholders in this industry?
Our hands, doors are open to all those looking for opportunities from us. We are ready for any partnership in this industry. For Uganda, the future is bright. Last year alone we aired 62 Ugandan films and our team is always on the lookout for African movies and films that are of value to our audiences.