Uganda to bid on creative economy through film industry development

Uganda is committed to raising general awareness about how cultural and creative industries (CCIs) can contribute to the country’s socio-economic development. In Uganda, CCIs operate in an informal and fragmented environment, and the film industry is no exception. This hinders creative actors to reach their full potential, and especially that of young professionals, given that they represent the largest group of employees in the film sector. It is in recognition of these challenges that the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development of Uganda has decided to scale up governmental support to CCIs, through the elaboration of new regulatory frameworks to develop the country’s film industry, with the support of UNESCO and the European Union (EU), as a beneficiary of the EU/UNESCO Expert Facility project on the Governance of Culture in Developing Countries.

Supporting local content development and professionalization

On 24 September 2020, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development of Uganda launched this EU-funded UNESCO project aimed at developing the country’s film sector. This project is coordinated by Ms Juliana Naumo Akoryo, Commissioner for Culture and Family Affairs at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development of Uganda, and supported by two experts: Mr Polly Kamukama, a national film expert, and Ms Yoonhyung Jeon, a South Korean member of the EU/UNESCO Expert Facility, specialized in the film industry. Policymakers, with the experts’ inputs, will be elaborating a measure to provide tax incentives for the film sector as well as to encourage the formation of professional film associations in order to support local content development and professionalization. This will help address the high cost of domestic film production as well as the lack of formal structures which affects the quality of produced films and leads to the exploitation of film stakeholders.

Contributing to economic development while ensuring freedom of expression

During the launch of the project, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development of Uganda, Mr. James Ebitu, highlighted that the project will contribute to developing culture as a major driver for economic development over the next five years, as put forth in the National Development Plan and the Social Development Sector Plan for 2020-2025. This will be done notably by building a film industry able to address Uganda’s youth unemployment problem, and spearhead the shaping of local content and national identity. Ms. Rosie Agoi, Secretary General of the Uganda National Commission for UNESCO, specified that the project will reach its objectives by engaging a host of stakeholders, including government agencies, civil society organizations, artist practitioners, creatives and filmmakers. Ms Anna Merrifield, Chargée d’Affaires a.i. of the European Union Delegation to Uganda, also stressed the importance of ensuring freedom of expression for Ugandan artists: “As the EU, we stress the importance of ensuring that all laws, regulations and policies governing the sector are human rights compliant and ensure strong freedom of expression safeguards. […] Freedom of expression and skills development in the film industry are paramount also to expand the Ugandan cinema market beyond its national boundaries”.

Promoting an inclusive national dialogue all around Uganda

A national team of approximately 30 members has been formed to assist the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development of Uganda during the project, which will act as a consultation body that gathers and shares perspectives and needs from a wide range of stakeholders from film industry practitioners to various ministries. Prior to the official launching ceremony of the project, the national team members were gathered for a two-day workshop on 22-23 September 2020 to discuss the project work plan and proposed measures, and to be consulted on other possible interventions to strengthen the national film industry. Lack of access to funding, underdeveloped film infrastructure and an inadequate film regulatory framework were noted as the key challenges affecting the country’s film industry. It was consequently proposed that measures dealing with the establishment of a national film fund, subsidization of the distribution and exhibition system and establishment of a one-stop agency for film regulation should be prioritized. “We welcome this project with utmost gratitude as it seems to address the salient issues affecting our industry right now. I hope that all measures that are suggested throughout these consultations will be considered and eventually implemented to benefit everyone”, stated Mr Stanley Nsamba, a film producer. Project leaders will also be extending these talks beyond Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, by organizing four regional consultation meetings with industry stakeholders in Gulu, Mbale, Masaka and Kabale.

Together with Uganda, this EU/UNESCO project is currently supporting twelve selected beneficiary countries from around the world in the design of new regulatory frameworks aimed at strengthening their national CCIs. It is doing so by providing expertise and support for peer-to-peer learning opportunities with fellow public officials in partner countries, thus contributing to the creation of international South-South networks for creativity.