Africa: Netflix, streaming a continent to a screen near you
Recently, Netflix launched a new campaign to bring African shows into the mainstream. Called ‘Made by Africans, Watched by the World’, the new video introduces a range of actors, directors, writers and producers who are involved in Netflix’s African Originals. The move brings with it exciting connotations for the telling of African stories by African creatives, along with some more logistical questions as to exactly how the Netflix-Africa partnership will work.
Predictions of Africa being the new frontier for entertainment seem truer today than they ever have been, and if African content proves to be popular on Netflix, it could well lead to other platforms following suit.
It’s also tremendously good news for audiences. With 54 countries across the continent, each with their own existing cultures and talent pools, Netflix could not have drawn upon a wider and more diverse range of creative input through which to create a new wave of unique programming. As the recently released video showcase alludes to, this content is likely to be strengthened further by the cross-pollination of different creators from different countries working together to create new and evolved concepts.
“We’ve intervened in world cultural affairs from time, so what we’re seeing here is not like the beginning,” says Nigerian Producer Akin Omotosho. “It’s a continuum of the work. But what we have is the opportunity that the world sees it in a way that they haven’t seen it before.”
South African Director and Producer, Busiswe Ntinltili adds: “A good story is a good story and a really good story is universal and so I think that our stories, the stories that come out of South Africa, Nigeria, out of Uganda or Kenya I think they are stories that people can relate to because really at the heart of it, it’s about human beings trying to make a better life for themselves.”
Of course, the advancement of Netflix into African content in this way does also raise a few questions.
Will partnership deals be struck as carefully and meticulously as they are across the rest of the world? Will fair rates still be maintained in the same way that they are with Hollywood and London studios? And from the outset, the title of this initial campaign does seem to come across a little patronising/condescending… is the implication here that Netflix is giving the people of the continent at large an opportunity, as opposed to benefiting from their content?
These are all questions that will undoubtedly be answered as Netflix begins to take its first tangible steps onto the African continent.
It will also be important to note where the bar to entry sits in terms of who can get their content on the platform. One of the most endearing things about Netflix in its early years was that it was able to showcase more edgy, unconventional, new-talent shows in a way that existing studios and networks could not risk. Shows like Orange Is The New Black for example, have in recent years helped to make Netflix a household name and gain mainstream subscription uptake. As it breaks into a new frontier, it would be great to see the channel again providing a platform for rising stars, as well as established players.
However it shakes out, it is an exciting time for African content and African storytelling. This new move represents further progress on the journey to arriving at a more accurate representation of Africa on the world stage, and a platform upon which to tell our own stories through our own lens.