The theme selected by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) for this year’s World Intellectual Property (WIP) Day celebrations could not be a better fit for Kenya. From an intellectual property (IP) perspective, there appears to be a renewed focus on the audio-visual industry (television and film) in Kenya, culminating in the introduction of section 30A which introduced the right to equitable remuneration for use of audio-visual works (see my comments on section 30A here, here, here and here). More recently, Kenya successfully negotiated and signed the WIPO Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances (See my comments on Kenya and the Beijing Treaty here).
In 2007, a study by the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) showed that the audio-visual industry (production, distribution and projection) contributed a total of KES 566 Million to Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product.
According to the Kenya Film Commission (KFC), the film industry employed 4,103 people on permanent basis in 2009, which increased by 25% from 2005. The total wage earnings in the industry also increased from 2,098.4 million in 2005 to 2,955.6 million in 2009/2010 – an increase of 40.8%. The total number of establishments in the industry also increased by 85% from 222 in 2005 to 411 in 2009. The international impact of the industry in Western countries, assessed by the issuance of special permits for film and documentary producers, rose from 2350 in 2010 to 3180 in 2011.
To the extent that the Kenyan films are cultural works, the Kenya Constitution promulgated in 2010 recognises culture as the foundation of the nation and as the cumulative civilization of the Kenyan people and nation. Article 11 of the Constitution states that the State shall promote all forms of national and cultural expression through literature, the arts, traditional celebrations, science, communication, information, mass media, publications, libraries and other cultural heritage. In addition, Articles 11 and 40 of the Constitution mandate the State to support, promote and protect the intellectual property rights of the Kenyan rights holders in the film industry.
As far the Kenya’s political leadership is concerned, President Uhuru Kenyatta has been a keen supporter of the Arts (see the Uhuru-Otonglo story on YouTube here) and his government has consistently pledged to nurture, grow and promote the creative arts in Kenya. In this regard, many will recall President Kenyatta’s message to the Cannes Film Festival (available on YouTube here) and his remarks at Kenya’s Groove Awards Ceremony (available on YouTube here).
At the county level, Machakos County Government launched the Machakos Entertainment Centre for Film, Media, Music and the Arts aimed at creating “Machawood” akin to “Hollywood” in the United States, “Nollywood” in Nigeria and “Bollywood” in India (Machawood press statements are available on YouTube here and here)
Enter: Kenyan Actress Lupita Nyong’o. Earlier this week, Kenya joined the rest of the world in celebrating Lupita’s Oscar win for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Lupita’s sterling performance as an abused servant in the movie “12 Years A Slave” undoubtedly put Kenya on the global stage and the 31 year old actress becomes the first Kenyan to win an Academy Award.
In her acceptance speech, Lupita proves that she truly is a wonderful inspiration, role model and pioneer for all Kenyan actors and actresses. She stated in part:
“When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from your dreams are valid.”
All in all, the emergence of a market-driven film industry presents unique opportunities for socio-cultural transformation in Kenya and Africa as whole. It is one of the most creative assets of the knowledge economy and a critical sector for economic growth and development.
This blogger looks forward to Kenya’s celebrations of this year’s WIP Day!