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Kenyan-made dramas, comedies rival foreign sports in viewership numbers

TWIN growth in the number of talented young filmmakers and private investors is powering Kenyan production and viewer interest.

KENYAN viewers are beginning to show a strong preference for locally-produced content, regional giant MultiChoice has revealed, with the appetite and consumption of Kenyan-made films now second only to foreign sports content like the UEFA and English premier leagues.

“Some classic shows like ‘Hulabaloo’, ‘Njoro wa uba’ in the last six months attracted more than 5 million viewers. Record viewership of ‘Kasiri’, ‘Zari’ and the growing dominance of ‘Kina’ is just amazing. Kenyans are not only watching local content they are actually paying for local content,” said MultiChoice Managing Director, Nzola Miranda during the company’s early April Kenya Content Showcase.

The Kenya Film Commission has attested to growth in investment in local film production following the rise in private sector players like MultiChoice, Netflix and other independent film production studios – something that Kenya Film Commission Capacity Development Officer John Kyalo foresaw several years ago.

“With the entry of private sector players like MultiChoice, people now do not need to sell land again to fund the production of films. Private players are changing how we are telling our stories including by feeding the population on what they want to watch,” Kyalo said at the time.

“Kenyans are now yearning for more and more local content. People want to watch themselves on screen, they want to consume authentic Kenyan stories. The future of local content is bright,” Kyalo said.

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Young Kenyan filmmakers are spurring new levels of creativity in production and ushering in a content revolution that includes sci-fi movies.

MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) East Africa Academy Director, Victoria Goro said every year, the intake of young emerging filmmakers from the region with the ability to tell authentic African stories, is oversubscribed.

In 2023 alone, the program that offers a full-year sponsored intensive immersion into the industry to a maximum of 20 graduates, attracted more than 4,200 applicants.

“For each country, the numbers keep growing every year by 30 to 40%. The selection process is always a very daunting task but one that I enjoy because it points to a growing industry. We have no doubt that we have a workforce,” said Goro.

The program is offered in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. For individuals who do not qualify for the full-year program, the MultiChoice Masterclass – made up of short-term workshops – is available.

Several MultiChoice Kenya productions were recently recognized at the Women in Film Awards & the Kalasha International TV & Film Market Festival & Awards. These include ‘Kam U Stay’ for Best TV Comedy, ‘Zari’ for Best TV Drama and ‘The Death of a Kenyan Heiress’ episode of ‘The Last Door’ show by veteran journalist John Allan Namu, which won the Best Documentary Feature category.

In 2021, UNESCO published a significant report titled “The African Film Industry: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities for Growth,” revealing that the industry provided employment to approximately five million people and contributed US$5 billion to Africa’s GDP. Those numbers are set to grow substantially.

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UNESCO projected that Africa’s film and audiovisual industries could generate over 20 million jobs and contribute US$20 billion to the continent’s combined GDP

“We urge more Kenyans to embrace local productions, we will continue producing content that speaks to the hearts of our viewers in their own languages,” Miranda said.