Being African or Zimbabwean is no excuse!

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The advent and rapid advance of information communication technology (ICT) has not only reduced the influence of the modern nation state as we know it, but has placed a burden of responsibility for Africans to match global standards in every field of human endeavour.

The global citizen is characterised by access to the best of information and other products from any part of the world at any given time. The time for sympathetic consumption of African goods and services is over as global citizens have access to the best services from any part of the world.

A young Zimbabwean of 16 or 18 will consume a media product not because it is Zimbabwean or African, but it is the best. What does this mean for the film industry, for example? It places a tremendous burden to produce local films and television products that are able to compete with products from Europe, the United States, Nigeria, South Korea and India.

The availability of literally hundreds of television channels, You Tube and other online platforms means that Africans do not have to necessarily watch African films just because they are African. While we are Africans and should love being Africans, our love for our Africanness cannot replace the demands that competition now places on us as a global village. A 14-year-old teenager will not care whether a film is from South Africa, Nigeria or Europe, but will switch to the best television channel and the best action movie. He will not be moved by sympathy for African movies or films, but by the desire to watch quality.

This places a disproportionate burden, for example, on the African and specifically the Zimbabwean film industry because it means that with budgets which are a hundred times less than American films, they have to produce equally competitive films because the global citizen has the luxury of watching anything anywhere and is only limited by lack of access to Internet or digital satellite television which may be a deterrent.

The average African is increasingly becoming a global citizen as evidenced by their tastes and preferences accentuated by the exponential growth of social media which has reduced the distance between countries. Consequently social and business transactions can be done literally within seconds. It is possible for one to get advice on film production from someone in New York as long as one is sufficiently connected than it may be to get tips from a producer in Harare.

It is also possible to share files and even footage via the Internet within hours if not minutes thus reducing the need for travel and so forth. The world is evolving and content and product producers also need to rapidly adapt or else they will be reduced to a modern-day Jurassic Park starring as latter-day dinosaurs.

A movie lover does not care whether a film is made in Timbuktu or New York as long it provides entertainment value. Bigger African countries such as Nigeria and South Africa have the luxury of relatively large populations which provide ready markets for their products, but Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland do not boast of such advantages and thus have to produce competitively. In the film industry Nigeria or Nollywood has emerged as one of the largest players in the world, but aided by the fact that Nigeria has a large population which can consume a vast quantity of media products such as DVDs in a short space of time.

Zimbabwe and other countries have to start producing film content that is of global quality capable of competing with the best in the continent and the recent call for proposals or concepts by MultiChoice for Zimbabwean-based content for the African market is a step in the right direction. We cannot continue shooting so-called movies over three days using home video cameras and hope to compete globally. There has to be deliberate steps by the government to invest in the film sector and to incentivise film and arts corporate sponsors by offering tax waivers and other incentives to grow this industry which has the potential of generating downstream economic activity.

The long and the short of it though is that nobody will watch a Zimbabwean film, read a Zimbabwean book, book into a Zimbabwean hotel just because it is Zimbabwean.The global citizen demands quality service and quality products without apology. The global citizen demands good customer service whether they are at Heathrow Airport, OR Tambo Airport or Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Airport.
It is unacceptable, for example, for a flight to be delayed by up to two or so hours without the powers-that-be proffering an apology or explanation. We cannot hide behind being Zimbabwean or Africans it is just not acceptable.We cannot be made to watch sub-standard content on ZBC or anywhere else when the global citizen can just switch to another channel and not be subjected to poor picture quality,questionable sound and endless propaganda. There are just too many alternatives for people to choose from now and the last option will be poor local content. Local content should compete with the best so that we are also able to export our culture, values and language. Pan-Africanism or patriotism cannot be an excuse for substandard material or content.

It is increasingly difficult for locals to enjoy local soccer given the easy access to British, Italian and Spanish and German soccer at sports bars and courtesy of satellite television. That is why the average soccer fan can tell you the whole Manchester United, Chelsea or Liverpool FC line-up, but stutter and stammer when asked to name any five Highlanders or Dynamos or even Whawha United or is it FC Platinum players. Would I prefer to watch my favourite team Highlanders FC playing slow motion soccer at Barbourfields Stadium or watch my other favourite team Liverpool at Anfield with rich picture and sound quality not to mention better standards of football? The answer is obvious and points to the imperative of delivering quality products that are able to compete globally. Neocolonialism and neoliberalism are realities, but these realities should not stop us from liberating ourselves from ourselves.

The world will not lower the bar of excellence to accommodate us; we need to raise the bar ourselves.
Mayibuye!

lDumisani Nkomo is chief executive officer of Habakkuk Trust. His views are personal.

1 COMMENT

  1. Pan-Africanism or patriotism cannot be an excuse for substandard material or content.
    The world will not lower the bar of excellence to accommodate us; we need to raise the bar ourselves.

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