Address by Minister Nathi Mthethwa at the DISCOP Africa Gala Dinner, Johannesburg

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06 Nov 2015

Programme Director, Mr Patrick Zuchowicki;

Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Mr Parks Tau;

MMC for Community Development, Mr Chris Vondo;

Your Excellency, Ambassador Tian Xuejuan;

International Director of CCTV, Ms Angelina Wong;

Mr Grant Meldrum of Star Times;

Distinguished representatives from the television and film industry;

Representatives of film organisations;

Producers and directors;

Members of the Diplomatic Corps;

Members of the media,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is my honour to welcome the Chinese delegation led by Ambassador Xuejan to this gala dinner for the country of honour.

Let me also welcome all delegations from afar and representatives from the rest of the African continent.

We are glad that there is this opportunity at DISCOP Africa 2015 for networking, sharing ideas, addressing challenges and taking up opportunities.

In this way we build bridges between continents, and we cross rivers we would not otherwise have known about and learn more about each other.

Out of this rich engagement, new projects emerge and new products. This is what DISCOP Africa can achieve on a mass scale.

I am reminded of an African proverb from the Swahili language that says that:

“Knowledge is an ocean: you need to embrace it with both your arms.”

DISCOP Africa, through focusing on the content needs of African audiences, through giving space to emerging creators as well as seasoned professionals, helps to activate the television and film industry into embracing the knowledge that surrounds us and is also to be found within us.

This is a meeting of minds; and indeed there are many rivers to cross and  many angles from which buyers, sellers and producers emerge in order to do business across the continent.

Importantly, DISCOP Africa also brings countries together as we witness here today with China the Country of Honour.

The past decade has seen a rapid development in Chinese cultural creative industries. Part of this success is due to integration and cooperation of various sectors. We plan to learn as much as we can from our Chinese counterparts.

We hope that the Chinese delegation also takes home ideas from our best practices.

China and South Africa enjoy close co-operation in areas of culture.

The year 2014 saw the South Africa year in China with several arts and culture events held in China.  And 2015 has seen the Year of China in South Africa with opera, ballet, culture and seminars being part of this engaging programme.

We look forward to the culmination of these cultural seasons in December this year with the closing ceremony of the China year in South Africa and the signing of an MOU on the establishment of a Chinese cultural centre in South Africa as agreed during the state visit of President Jacob Zuma in Beijing in December 2015.

Furthermore the gathering of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in this very province and city scheduled to take place in the first week of December bears testimony to the critical role played by China.
This Forum for China-Africa Co-operation will be co-chaired by South Africa and China. This has been elevated to summit level. This summit will further strengthen the ties of co-operation between China and the African continent.

Together we shall continue to take forward South-South relations, China-Africa co-operation and build a world characterized by multilateralism.

Our relations are further cemented in the grouping popularly known as BRICS. This forum is a gathering of minds that see as their responsibility the harnessing of our collective strength to improve the conditions of our people and to challenge the dominant negative narrative about the countries of the South.

In July this year, the Ministers of Culture of BRICS countries signed a cultural agreement that establishes a framework for co-operation in the fields of arts, culture and heritage. We are working together to develop joint projects.

In South Africa in recent weeks, we have been seized with the challenges facing local filmmakers around distribution and exhibitions. Out of these engagements, we are moving towards improving the industry and putting systems in place for the transformation of the sector.

This gathering of DISCOP Africa assists us to share our  best practices, and equally learn from others about the best policies and systems that enable television and film entrepreneurs to flourish.

We reside on a continent and in a country where we need to increase the spaces and platforms available to tell our own stories.

We have grown weary of news and stories that objectify us but do not empower us.

This is why it is important that DISCOP Africa brings people together to tell a new story about the African continent.

This is not to say that we want to view ourselves through rose-tinted spectacles.

We are hungry for the truths of our realities and we also want to dream.

But what we do want is content that allows us to see the world from where we see it.

Local content on the African continent has proven itself to be popular, resilient and it resonates with audiences.

It is interesting to note that, after China, the African continent as a whole is becoming the world’s fastest growing digital entertainment marketplace. With a forecasted figure of 500 million people projected in the next 20 years, and the world’s youngest population, the need for authentic African content will be coming of age.

There is rapidly growing advertising budgets and rising disposable income all across the continent.

In South Africa alone, our Mapping Study estimates that in 2013, the creative industries contributed R90.5 billion to the economy and created over 500 000 jobs. This demonstrates that the creative economy can become a significant force in the future.

Film and television create employment but also impact in a positive way on tourism and local economic development.

While we have provincial commissions and local structures supporting film, including location and financial support, and film studios, we are looking at our community arts centres and other sites as additional spaces for film showings and production hubs.

Given Africa’s digital switchover, Africa’s television ecosystems present a wealth of opportunities for growth.

As governments we are listening and are willing to create the right environment for the industry to grow from strength to strength.

African leaders gathered in 2013 to celebrate fifty years of the African Union. However, this gathering was not only about celebration but to answer the question, where do we want to see Africa fifty years from now?

In response to this question, the African Union Agenda 2063 “The Africa We Want” provides a roadmap for the sustainable development of this continent. An important pillar in this agenda relates to culture and refers to “An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics.”

This agenda calls on every sector of society to make a contribution to a better Africa. Our future is in our hands. Let us all put a shoulder to the wheel.

Here at DISCOP Africa 2015, let us too rededicate ourselves to Africa’s regeneration and through our work in culture and broadcasting, strive for an integrated continent, that is “politically united and based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance. ”

I wish you well as you round off your work at this edition of DISCOP Africa. I look forward to the co-production treaties, the strengthened cooperation, the deals and sales, that will be announced as DISCOP Africa concludes this meeting tomorrow.

I thank you.