The Mou Between Netflix And The Kenyan Government And Why It Is Important
In May 2022, the Kenyan Government through the Ministry of ICT, Innovation, and Youth Affairs signed a two-year MoU with Netflix in a bid to strengthen the country’s creative industry and support the development of the next generation of storytellers.1 There has recently been an increase in the number of Kenyan films on the Netflix platform with an upcoming series, ‘Country Queen’, set to premiere on 15th July 2022. This MoU between Kenya and Netflix is timely.
Shola Sanni, the Public Policy Director of Netflix said that the partnership will cover the following areas:
Capacity building and training.3
Consumer protection and ensuring the online space stays safe for children and young people.4
Working with institutions like Kenya Film Commission (KFC), Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), and treasury to ensure that ‘Kenya can set up an attractive film incentive framework.’5
Netflix will also identify career development opportunities through ‘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.’6
The Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, Mr. Joe Mucheru said that the MoU ‘will not only facilitate job creation in the country but also unlock training opportunities for screen sector development.’7
Why the Netflix MoU is important
The Netflix MoU is said to be the first of its kind for Netflix in Africa and therefore the first in Kenya. The MoU is important because it will provide opportunities to those from disadvantaged backgrounds with a keen interest in the film industry and innovation to pursue their interests. The MoU is meant to remove barriers to such individuals and in doing so they will be equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge by interacting with experienced people, therefore, enhancing the quality of film production.
The MoU will also play a very important role for film makers and innovators. The parties involved in the whole process will benefit because intellectual property rights which are important to the film maker’s journey from the script to the screen8 will help the producers involved ‘attract funds required to get a film project off the ground.’9 Further, those involved such as actors, directors, screenwriters, technicians, artists, and those behind the scenes will earn a living.10 Intellectual Property (IP) rights are meant to protect creations in film making as well as provide crucial protection for the performers and creators.11 Some of these rights include copyright, technical innovation, actor protection, trademarks and merchandising.
The MoU will also ensure that those involved in the creative industry comply with the regulatory framework, especially with regard to OTT (Over the Top) and VOD (Video on Demand) platforms. Christopher Wambua who is the acting CEO of the Kenya Film Classification Board stated that Netflix had agreed to apply the local classification system to all the content exhibited within the country.12 The regulatory framework applicable to the film industry includes the Copyright Act which provides for copyright protection of literary and artistic work and the Film and Stage Plays Act, which controls the making and exhibition of cinematograph films.
OTT refers to content that is delivered through the internet and which bypasses traditional channels or over-the-air live TV broadcasting.13 The advantage of OTT is easy accessibility as OTT services can be accessed anytime by viewers as long as they have access to an internet connection.14 There are various types of OTT content, but platforms such as Netflix mainly offer video content that covers a wider range of resources. With VOD, viewers can search an online video library and access any kind of content by using certain keyword searches.15
The Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) which is established under section 15 of the Film and Stage Plays Act has the responsibility of regulating the creation, broadcasting, possession, distribution, and exhibition of films.16 The acting CEO stated that there are ongoing discussions to come up with a framework to regulate OTT and VOD platforms since they have taken up a good amount of the market that was traditionally occupied by the legacy media.17
The proposed co-regulation framework will apply to ‘broadcasters, OTTs, VODs, digital content creators, distributors, exhibitors and aggregators with a significant number of subscribers and output of content in Kenya.’18 According to the framework, KFCB proposes that online streaming service providers classify 70 percent of audiovisual content on their platforms using the classification guidelines for local films.19 KFCB will only classify 30 percent of content meant for traditional broadcast and new media platforms.20 Operators of OTT and VOD platforms will also be allowed to have KFCB age appropriate symbols on self-classified content.21
Additionally from the MOU, those involved with cinematic innovation will get a larger audience since Netflix has a lot of viewers on its platform. This is according to Shola Sanni, the Public Policy Director of Netflix, who stated that there are at least 220 million people on Netflix who are watching to see the stories that will come out of Kenya.22 The platform provided by Netflix will also give storytellers a chance to educate the global audience and provide access to information on various matters without having to go to school. The Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Joe Mucheru said that education will become easier because people can be told stories happening in any part of the world.23
Finally, the MoU will also provide a huge market and competition opportunity within the single digital market which is an initiative by Smart Africa Alliance to transform the African region into a single digital market.24 The Cabinet Secretary, Mr Joe Mucheru said that the creation of a single digital market is one of the ambitions that African heads of state have had.25 Some of the interventions by Smart Africa Alliance to ensure this is successful include:
Developing affordable digital infrastructure across the African continent.26
Facilitating and promoting framework conditions for engaging and investing in business across Africa.27
Accelerating the development of a digital society and boosting entrepreneurship to promote job creation and economic growth.28
One of the aims of a single digital market is the development of a regional digital economy and also removing the barriers to ‘doing businesses and accessing services across national borders.’29 This in turn increases the inclusion of citizens in the digital sector and makes it possible for businesses to use a larger regional platform to compete worldwide.30 Another benefit of the single digital market is that it will make it easier for nations which are advanced digitally to reach a much larger market for digital services while less advanced countries will benefit from infrastructure and investment that will support their digital development and also greater access to services.31
The MoU will therefore play an important role in the film industry in the various areas which have been mentioned above. The actual MoU which contains all information has not been released to the public. However, having a copy of the MoU released to the public is important because people who have an interest in the specific area can analyse the MoU and this includes members of the creative sector, researchers and those in the academic field.
1 Africa Tech, [Kenya] Government and Netflix partner to accelerate local storytelling < https://africabusinesscommunities.com/tech/tech-news/kenya-government-and-and-netflix-partner-to-accelerate-local-storytelling/ > accessed 6 May 2022
2 Youtube, Netflix and Kenya sign a deal worth over 2M US Dollars! A big win for the Creative industry! <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jr2YBZ5upX4&list=LL&index=10&t=617s > accessed 31 May 2022
6 BusinessQuest, Ministry of ICT, Netflix signs an MoU to strengthen Creative Industry (4 May 2022) < https://www.businessquest.co.ke/ministry-of-ictnetflix-signs-an-mou-to-strengthen-creative-industry/#sidr-nav >accessed 6 May 2022
8 Hugh Melamdowitz, Intellectual Property: the lesser-known actor in film making (15 February 2021)< https://www.lexology.com/commentary/intellectual-property/south-africa/spoor-fisher/intellectual-property-the-lesser-known-actor-in-film-making > accessed 6 May 2022
11 Intellectual Property Movie: Everything You Need to Know(19 November 2020)< https://www.upcounsel.com/intellectual-property-movie> accessed 6 May 2022
12 Youtube, Netflix and Kenya sign a deal worth over 2M US Dollars! A big win for the Creative industry! <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jr2YBZ5upX4&list=LL&index=10&t=617s > accessed 31 May 2022
15 Shahan Zafar & Ghufran Sheraz, Video on Demand (VOD)|Definition, History and Benefits (26 May 2022)< https://blog.vidizmo.com/video-on-demand-vod-definition-history-and-benefits > accessed 30 May 2022
16 This is done through examining every film and poster submitted under the Act for purposes of classification, imposing age restriction on viewership and giving consumer advice having due regard to the protection of women and children against sexual exploitation or degradation in cinematograph films and on the internet.
17 Youtube ( n 12)
18 Proposed Co-regulation framework for audio-visual content classification for broadcast and Over The Top (OTT)/Video on Demand (VOD) Services.
20 The TIMES, KFCB to Involve Industry in Regulation of Audiovisual Content < https://thetimes.co.ke/2022/03/30/kfcb-to-involve-industry-in-regulation-of-audiovisual-content/ > accessed 31 May 2022
22 Youtube, Netflix and Kenya sign a deal worth over 2M US Dollars! A big win for the Creative industry! <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jr2YBZ5upX4&list=LL&index=10&t=617s > > accessed 31 May 2022
24 Lacina Kone, Transforming Africa into a single digital market (4 September 2020) < https://www.broadbandcommission.org/insight/transform-africa-into-a-single-digital-market/ > accessed 18 May 2022
25 Youtube ( n 22)
26 Kone ( n 24)
29 World Economic Forum, Overview of single digital market vision for East Africa < https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Doc3_Overview_of_Single_Digital_Market_Vision_23_March_2017.pdf?ET_CID=1639137&ET_RID=001b0000004tBtyAAE > accessed 2 June 2022