Netflix to invest in initiatives to strengthen Kenyan creative talent and storytelling

NAIROBI, Kenya: Today the Kenyan Ministry of ICT, Innovation & Youth Affairs and Netflix signed a two-year Memorandum of Understanding to jointly deliver efforts to strengthen the country’s creative industry and support the development of the next generation of storytellers.

The scope of cooperation under the  MoU – which is the first of its kind for Netflix in Africa – will focus on skills & capacity development, creative sector infrastructure development, marketing and media spend, digital consumer protection and local content investment. 

The MOU covers various joint initiatives that will be undertaken by Netflix and various local partners is structures around the following four pillars:

Local content investment

As part of this MOU, Netflix has invested in 3 Kenyan co-productions – which are currently in various stages of production while a number of licensed local titles are being reviewed by Netflix. The selected Kenyan titles will be revealed at a later date closer to their premier dates on Netflix where 222 Million members in over 190 countries will have an opportunity to enjoy Kenyan storytelling and experience Kenyan culture.

Human Capital development

Netflix will commit to supporting human capital development and institutional capacity building to enhance the digital content ecosystem in Kenya. This commitment includes the Netflix Creative Equity Scholarship Fund for Africa which is being administered through HEVA Fund for the East Africa region. Under the MOU, US$100 000 will fund scholarships for 30 beneficiaries covering tuition, living expenses, learning materials and stipend, in support of Kenya Film School and the African Digital Media institute.

A further US$200,000 has been allocated towards scholarships (inclusive of fees, accommodation, living costs, learning materials and stipend) for aspiring creatives to study at other Kenyan institutions that provide film and TV studies. There’s also a scholarship opportunity for aspiring Kenyan creatives to study for a Masters in International Screenwriting and Production (MISP) at the University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy.

Skills development and training are a key part of human capital development and so, Netflix will identify various opportunities which may include further career development via internships, job shadowing, on-set training, access to creative development labs, technical masterclasses, development executive access and mentorship programs, or a combination of different elements for Netflix scholarship beneficiaries.

Marketing, media & digital consumer protection

As part of the digital consumer protection  efforts, Netflix will collaborate with Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) to promote responsible digital parenting and appropriate viewing practices for consumers of online content and Netflix members. The collaboration will include the rollout of educational tools on online safety, joint sensitization programs on digital parenting and joint campaigns on age-appropriate online environments.

Netflix will also collaborate with Communications Authority (CA) of Kenya under its campaign on Child Online Protection (COP) launched in 2021. As part of the collaboration, Netflix will work with industry players convened by CA and contribute to the industry microsite on COP.

Creative sector infrastructure development

Furthermore, Netflix will collaborate with the Kenya Film Commission and other stakeholders – to be determined by KFC – to provide institutional capacity building and provide technical support towards the design, establishment and rollout of a fit-for-purpose screen production sector incentive and the requisite frameworks for operationalizing the structure in Kenya. Netflix will also partner with the KFC to identify capacity development areas that would benefit the local creative ecosystem.

The Ministry of ICT and Netflix have jointly identified these commitments as beneficial to strengthen and amplify the voice of Kenyan creatives to tell their own story and build sector capacity to enable Kenyan storytellers to better compete on the global stage. The partnership will also enable Netflix and the Ministry to collaborate in contributing meaningfully to sustainable long term growth in the content creation sector that will provide jobs and support livelihoods in Kenya’s creative industry.

In launching the partnership, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of ICT, Innovation & Youth Affairs, Mr Joe Mucheru, said, “ICT Infrastructure in the country has improved thus presenting a good business environment for OTT platforms such as Netflix. This MoU will not only facilitate job creation in the country but also unlock training opportunities for screen sector development. We welcome this partnership with Netflix because Kenya has many stories to tell the world and all the initiatives with the various partners will help us ensure we have the ability to create quality stories.”

On her part, Ms. Shola Sanni, Director of Public Policy for Sub-Saharan Africa at Netflix said the organisation seeks to contribute meaningfully to the key socio-economic priorities of the Government of Kenya. “We are cognizant that there are positive socio-economic outputs generated by our service in the countries where we invest.

“This MoU will play a major role in harnessing these positive externalities driving impact beyond direct investment in local content only, to measurable inputs in other crucial aspects of the screen production value chain – such as human and institutional capacity development,” Sanni said.

Speaking about the initiatives planned, Netflix’s Director of Series in Africa, Dorothy Ghettuba, said, “Netflix is excited by the potential of Kenya’s next generation of creative storytellers. We believe there are great stories in Kenya and we want to do our part for Kenya’s creative community by supporting the development of the local film and TV industry and talent pipelines, both in front of and behind the camera, through partnership initiatives . We also hope that the stories will encompass themes which are unique to Kenya, which our global audiences will find appealing.”

Representing the Kenyan Film Commission, Timothy Owase, the CEO said that the partnership presents opportunities to collaborate in order to amplify the place of Kenya’s film industry on the global stage. He added, “Thank you to our Cabinet Secretary, Hon Joe Mucheru and our PS Miss Esther Koimett for their continued commitment to the growth of the film industry and thank you to the Netflix team for choosing to invest in the Kenyan film sector.

“This partnership will see us continue on our journey in the development of a vibrant Film and TV industry that reflects Kenyan identity, character and cultural diversity and will help the Film Industry to be appreciated further for its potential to contribute significantly to the Kenyan economy.”

With regards to opportunities for the next generation of storytellers, there’s currently a project by a Kenyan storyteller – Voline Ogutu –  in development after she became one of the six winners of the Netflix & Unesco African Folktales Reimagined competition. Voline won herself US$25 000 as well as a production budget of US$75 000 to create her short film (in English, KiSwahili & Luo) through a local production company, and under the guidance of Netflix-appointed supervising producer and an industry mentor, Leila Afua Djansi.

This project will be launched on Netflix later this year.  Another opportunity that 3 Kenyan creatives have succeeded in this year include the Realness Episodic Lab with Hussein Kurji with his story concept Bushcamp and Voline Ogutu making it with Dilemma while Mona Ombogo has made it into the Development Executive Traineeship.

More details about the specific initiatives will be released closer to the date via the partner organisations’ digital channels. For more information, please see the Ministry website https://ict.go.ke.

Lead photo: [From L-R] Njeri Gitungo of HEVA Fund, Alfred Ambani – Communications Authority representing the DG, Christopher Wambua – Ag. CEO KFCB, Timothy Owase – CEO KFC, Shola Sanni – Netflix Director of Public Policy SSA, Mr Joe Mucheru – Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of ICT, Innovation Youth Affairs, Dorothy Ghettuba – Netflix Director for African Series, Kibaara Kiagu – Director KFC, George Gachara – Co-founder HEVA Fund and Ernest Kerich of the KFCB Board of Directors during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi today.

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