Photograph — New African Magazine

Last year, Netflix made headlines with its plans to expand across Africa. This was based on how well it had done since making its way to sub-Saharan Africa in 2016. The company has invested a total of $175 million in African films since then However, data from their socio-economic report shows Netflix’s focus was on established film hubs. Netflix’s funding primarily benefitted projects in South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya. This reflects a wider trend in African cinema, where a few powerhouses have dominated the industry for decades. For example, Nollywood films consistently rank among the top-grossing films across Africa, often capturing a significant share of the total box office revenue.

While giants like Nollywood and South Africa’s film industry dominate the headlines, a quieter revolution is brewing in different parts of Africa. Last year, Hollywood Actor, Idris Elba, revealed plans to build film studios in Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Ghana. In February 2024, Senegalese director Mati Diop (Atlantics) partnered with French production company Les Films du Poisson to launch “Mille Soleils”, to develop and produce films by talented Senegalese and African filmmakers. Recently, Zambia, a nation whose film scene has largely remained under the radar, unveiled an ambitious $100 million investment plan to transform its film industry over 4 years.

This isn’t just about box office figures. The plan is to cultivate a film industry that is competitive and sustainable. Hence, Zambia’s newly revised National Film Policy plan tackles the challenges head-on. One of its agenda is to finance the construction or rehabilitation of production houses, cinemas, studios, and digital distribution hubs in Zambia. The plans also cover appointing experienced individuals within relevant ministries and agencies. Zambia plans to invest in skills development through partnerships between the public and private sectors. And finally, they intend to establish a National Film Fund and a National Film Market Hub. Modernizing existing legislation to create a more conducive legal environment. Zambia’s plan is also a declaration of intent. It is a commitment to cultivating a film industry that’s not just commercially viable, but deeply rooted in Zambian culture.

Moreover, Zambia’s story is part of a larger movement. Across Africa, minority film industries are gaining momentum, fueled by a desire to tell their own stories and challenge the dominance of established powerhouses. This increasing spotlight on minor film industries coincides with the latest concerns on representation in the film industry on the continent. Recently, the AMVCAs’ selection process, came under questioning, whether it adequately represents the entirety of African filmmaking. In the show’s early years, non-Nigerian films like South Africa’s “Otelo Burning” shone brightly. However, since then, Nigerian productions have dominated the categories. This led African film critic and writer Seyi Lasisi to question, in a recent piece, whether the AMVCAs are primarily celebrating Nigerian cinema.

Zambia is brimming with talent. In 2017, the country’s most prominent filmmaker, Rungano Nyoni had her acclaimed debut movie “I Am Not a Witch” showing at the Cannes Film Festival. This month, her other movie, “On Becoming a Guinea Fowl” will be back in Cannes. In the same vein, there are many film industries across Africa brimming with talent, creativity, and diverse storytelling. The film and audiovisual industry in Africa has the potential to create over 20 million jobs and generate US$20bn in revenues per year. Supporting these emerging film industries isn’t just about box office success. It ushers a new era for African cinema.

Elsewhere on Ventures

Triangle arrow