By Yolisa Phahle, CEO: Connected Video, Multichoice Group
I believe there is a relationship between countries with strong economies and a thriving creative arts sector that also makes a meaningful contribution to a country’s gross domestic product or GDP. I grew up watching how great storytellers like John Kani, Mirriam Makeba, and Hugh Masekela used their creative voices to inform the rest of the world and garner support for our country during our fight for democracy. I have also seen how film and television have documented important periods in our history, provided invaluable information, and created a view of not just how things are but how things should and can be.
Collectively, Africa presents one of the fastest-growing economies in the world but lags in the necessary capacity to take advantage of the opportunities this presents, with over 20% of the continent’s population not equipped to participate in its growth.
There are many suggestions on how this continent, often described as the “last growth frontier”, can catapult itself to become a force worth reckoning on a global scale. These suggestions often include increasing the use of technology in vital sectors such as health and education, increasing financial access to the underserved and unbanked and, even increasing smart methods in agriculture. Yet little research has truly looked at how media plays a powerful role in shaping and empowering communities across the continent.
As a company that is truly passionate about the growth of this continent, MultiChoice has developed and been involved in a number of initiatives over the decades that have yielded impressive results and continue to do so.
MultiChoice uses the power of entertainment to enrich lives. What do we mean when we say we enrich lives? It means we do business in a way that delivers shared value. We get behind initiatives that have a scalable impact, broaden economic participation, and ensure diversity and inclusion.
We are the biggest funder of local content across the continent and as such, we connect over 100 million people across the continent via more than 120 channels, offering the best local and international content programming in 40 different languages.
Firmly rooted in the African continent, we have built an enviable ecosystem of storytellers, creative entrepreneurs, trainers and mentors, installers and have even partnered with the world’s largest social organisations such as the United Nations, using our platforms for good.
Deep diving into some of our initiatives, we launched the MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) in 2014 to enable Africans to tell their own stories. Through the MTF, we use the power of video entertainment to grow the next generation of storytellers, helping them to hone their talents and connect them with the people who will be pivotal in their career ambitions.
Almost 300 storytellers from across the African continent have been trained through the MTF over the past seven years – a recent survey found that most MTF alumni are economically active, with the vast majority working in the film and video entertainment industry. While some alumni are self-employed, others own production companies that produce content for M-Net channels and Showmax.
To give a tangible example, as part of our commitment to creating and nurturing new talent for the film and TV industry, we entrusted our MTF class of 2021 with a major task: assisting with shooting our ninth season of the Survivor South Africa franchise. 15 new interns were moved into in-personal training and professional production placements, with 10 interns placed on professional productions, including 40 days on Survivor South Africa.
You will also have the opportunity to watch the work of one of our MTFza alumni, Thembalethu Mfebe when Adulting premiers on Showmax. Adulting is a show with four interwoven stories of equal length – that each explores one aspect of modern masculinity, through four male leads. The premier for Adulting will be announced in due course.
MTF includes a 12-month filmmaking internship programme offered through film academies, masterclasses for training and upskilling industry professionals, and a pan-African digital networking portal for creatives. The MTF Academy in South Africa also launched a scriptwriting incubator programme – a first for Africa.
Indeed, Africans have a large appetite for locally conceived and produced audio-visual content that features our own stories. Research has found that as soon as more local content becomes available, Africans view considerably less imported content – with that said, this appetite is not satisfied by ‘one size fits all’ generic African content. The more ‘hyperlocal’ the setting and story, the more it will be followed by local cultures and communities.
Content is at the core of what we do, which is why we developed a hyperlocal content strategy. We invest heavily in the local television production industry and are the biggest funder of local content in Africa. We now spend 47% of our total general entertainment spend on local content.
In the past year alone, we produced more than 6 000 hours of local content taking our local content library to almost 70 000 hours.
Local content is also proving to be a key differentiator on platforms like Showmax, with local content viewership up significantly in 2022, and four of the top five titles on Showmax being local productions.
Our local shows are also popular with global buyers too. We sold 172 movies and series seasons to international buyers, which is 10 times more than in 2021. This is a testament to the quality of our productions.
This concerted investment and interest in African stories and programmes has reinvigorated film and television industries across the continent, resulting in a proliferation of exceptional original local productions and the discovery of talent in front of the camera and behind the scenes.
When we invest locally, we create both direct and indirect opportunities to help grow the industry. Through the hyperlocal strategy MultiChoice not only creates a platform for telling African stories, but the company helps create jobs and grow the economy.
Africa is a diverse continent with huge potential to deliver prosperity for its people. As an African company, we are deeply invested to contribute to that prosperity. The role of the media is so much more than about delivering entertainment – it is about empowering and enriching lives through delivering content that addresses the issues in communities and make a lasting impact.
It is crucial that businesses operate in communities and impact several stakeholders and sections of society to enable shared value creation. Value creation is a holistic process, especially in a business environment that is constantly evolving, and is influenced by rapid changes and socio-economic factors amongst other things.
These dynamics are further exacerbated by global macro volatility and the increasing complexity of the regulatory environment; however, it is important for the private sector to remain focused on ensuring it has the agility and foresight to adapt accordingly to be able to contribute to the development of skills, creation of jobs and small businesses, promotion of discipline and wellbeing, and building of strong foundations to empower communities – the backbone of any business.
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