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MUCHERU: Pooling resources to meet needs of film sector

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By JOE MUCHERU
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I love watching movies, particularly those with unpredictable twists. Beyond my fascination with movie plots and characters, I muse over what it takes to produce a good film.

Nairobi was once abuzz with movie theatres but most of them have either closed down or have been repurposed into houses of worship — not that I have anything against soul harvesting.

The obsolescence of movie theatres in Kenya is a stark reminder of how technology has revolutionised mass-entertainment along with other major industries. It is encouraging, however, that a new breed of state-of-the-art movie theatres is springing up in strategic locations to appeal to Kenya’s rising middle class.

Of greater interest still is that a majority of the films and movies screened locally are mostly from established movie spinners such as Hollywood and Bollywood. Occasionally, local productions are screened, and I was delighted to attend the premiere of Subira, which was crowned as the Best Feature Film at the Kalasha Awards 2018.

The talent and quality displayed through this production are impressive. Sadly, our productions barely command the cult following that is enjoyed by box office productions such as super hero film Black Panther. The fact that our very own Lupita Nyong’o starred in the film was a bonus to Kenya.

With all our expertise, talent and crew base, it is of concern that our local productions do not resonate locally and even globally. The dismal patronage of movie theatres threatens the sustainability of the film industry as producers are unable to recoup their investments through box office sales and actors cannot string together a decent income.

A good number of local producers are now caught between trying to produce flicks similar in theme as the Western blockbusters, but without budgets, production technology and equipment to back the pieces they make. This has led to increased deculturisation and westernisation in our society.

The economic value of the film industry in Kenya is yet to be properly understood and this, therefore, limits investment into the sector. Advanced film markets such as the USA, China and India and recently Nigeria employ deliberate strategies to support their film sectors. For example, China has set quotas on the number of foreign films that can be screened in the theatres in the country.

To penetrate wider markets including Africa, players from these film-developed countries leverage the internet and mobile telephone to distribute their content as exemplified by over the top operators (OTTs) such as Netflix and YouTube. Disney is also set to launch its streaming service. This, backed with major investments in dubbing studios, theatre and movie halls, guarantees that returns on the films produced in these markets are higher.

In Kenya, broadcasters will ultimately be required to air 60 per cent local content. However, most stations struggle to sustain the current 40 per cent threshold because they are unable to attract or sustain advertisement revenue, which is determined by viewership. These broadcasters, together with distributors and broadcasters, can draw lessons from the OTTs. To penetrate new and broader markets, the OTTs leverage local insights to produce content that is relevant for a specific market. Netflix, for example, will soon premiere Queen Sono, an African themed female-led spy series set in South Africa. This strategy, which they have applied before in markets like India and wider Asia, are meant to rump up viewership numbers in the specific markets.

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OTTs previously subsisted on content from other production houses but are now developing their content to reduce their dependence on others. All this points to the fact that besides just movie productions, we can invest and make significant returns in the film sub-sectors such as prop production.

The Kenya Film Commission (KFC), Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC) and the Kenya Film School (KFS) will have to pool resources and efforts to address the needs of the film sector.

We need to have investments in film studios and sound stages that can appeal to both local and international movie makers. The government is also looking into putting in place attractive incentives to entice international movie producers to film on location and spur a positive ripple effect for the local communities and boost the tourism sector.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation recognises that digital technology has revolutionised production and distribution of music and movies and that revenue generated to access entertainment content has decreased in most parts of the world.

The local copyright and intellectual property laws, therefore, need to be harmonised with international laws. The sector players have also called for the conclusion of the film policy so that it can be the overarching reference for film production. The levies charged for filming in various counties also need to be renegotiated to avoid double taxation.

The fragmented African market stifles growth in the entertainment sector, but potentials exist through the Smart Africa initiative, under which Kenya is responsible for driving the digital economy. Co-production opportunities should be explored in these markets and producers should not shy away from looking East to tap into China’s 1.2 billion market.

The government seeks to establish a revolving film fund accessible to filmmakers for productions. In collaboration with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the Ministry of ICT will also develop effective tools and mechanisms to aggregate data and analyse the value of the different verticals within the entertainment sector to influence investment decisions.

With a median age of 19 years, Kenya’s film sector has a huge potential to generate youth-centric job opportunities.

And just like the US and China have done, we can and must produce movies that portray our values, foster our patriotism, enhance cohesion and also validate the industry players who work tirelessly to entertain us. We need to advocate congenial and collective screen-time opportunities at movie theatres across the 47 counties. In the words of Walt Disney, “movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood.”

Mr Mucheru is CS, Ministry of ICT.



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State to keep Sh18m seized from suspended NLC chief : The Standard

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A former National Lands Commission (NLC) senior official has lost over Sh18 million that was recovered from her house.
Suspended Director of Valuation and Taxation Salome Munubi (pictured), who is facing graft charges, failed to explain the source of the money that had been retrieved from her house by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) sleuths during a search on May 4, 2017.
But the court declined a request by EACC to have her property seized by the State, with the judge saying the agency’s lead investigator, Pius Maithya, had not proven that the wealth was proceeds of crime.
Justice John Onyiego ruled on Wednesday in a case pitting EACC, Ms Munubi, her husband Sostenah Ogero Taracha and alleged daughter, Priscila Nyambura alias Risper Bwari.
The cash – Sh1 million and USD 168,900 (approximately Sh18 million) – was found in one of the homes raided by the EACC as part of investigations into a compensation scheme involving the Standard Gauge Railway project.
“The over Sh18 million recovered from Ms Munubi and Mr Taracha’s house amounts to unexplained assets hence I do hereby direct the same to be forfeited to the government,” reads Justice Onyiego’s judgement.
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Munubi’s husband and purported daughter were also directed to bear the cost of the suit.
The former NLC officer disowned the money found in her house, claiming it belonged to her husband, who is a businessman with a monthly earning of Sh2 million.
Munubi told the court her husband had borrowed the money from his step-daughter.
But during interrogation by EACC sleuths, Nyambura claimed it was part of Sh21 million given to her by her Sudanese step-father to purchase a house for herself and her siblings.
“Accordingly, I am satisfied that EACC has proved its case on a balance of probability against Taracha and Nyambura and judgement is thus entered against them jointly and severally with a determination and finding that the amount of money listed as recovered is unexplained assets,” ruled the judge.
He noted that even though Munubi’s husband and purported daughter were asked to justify acquisition of the said amount before May 4, 2017, the information given was conflicting.
He said further probe went beyond the said date and this was necessitated by the peculiar nature of the case in which parties not targeted originally came into the picture claiming proceeds reasonably suspected to be those of crime or generally money that could not be lawfully accoutered for.
According to Maithya, he and other officers of the commission were tasked to investigate allegations of irregular compensation of land following compulsory acquisition of land along the SGR line by the government through NLC.
“We were in receipt of credible information that Munubi was engaged in corrupt conduct and had amassed assets well beyond her known legitimate sources of income,” Maithya told the court.
He also said they were investigating Munubi over claims of involvement in a case of fictitious acquisition and compensation of four land parcels in Embakasi, Nairobi County, despite falling within the Kenya Railways Reserve and therefore not subject to compulsory acquisition.
The case took a different turn when the investigators probed the millions found in the house. The evidence adduced saw Nyambura interrogated, only to emerge as the in-law of Munubi and the husband, who hails from Murang’a County.
Munubi was then detained alongside her chairman Muhammad Swazuri, chief executive officer Tom Chavangi, Finance Director Francis Mugo and his deputy Ben Cherutich.
Besides the homes, the detectives raided the commission’s offices at ACK Bishops Annex and took away documents and electronics they said were crucial in the investigations.
More officers are under investigation after complaints that some of the payments made were riddled with corruption.
Parliament and the police are also investigating the claims.
On April 17, 2019, Munubi was arrested alongside several other NLC top officials and charged with conspiracy to commit economic crimes and money laundering, among other charges, according to a statement from the Director of Public Prosecutions office.
Swazuri and Munubi were later released on a cash bail of Sh3.5 million.
Evidence gathered by the prosecution showed how fake compensation claims, double payments, overpayments, inflation of land values and payment of people whose land was never on the corridor were used to loot taxpayers’ money.
However, crucial data that was key in the investigations mysteriously disappeared after a break-in at the commission’s offices. Following the burglary, the NLC stated that what got lost was a central processing unit in one of the computers within the Directorate of Valuation and Taxation.

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National Lands CommissionSalome MunubiCorruptionSGR

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Always assume everyone is COVID-19 positive: Kagwe » Capital News

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 10 – The Ministry of Health has urged Kenyans to take extra precautions by adhering to government regulations of social distancing in order to protect themselves from contracting coronavirus.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said everyone, including small-scale traders operating in the open-air markets should always assume that everyone has contracted the virus.

“Just assume that everybody is positive,” the CS told a news conference Thursday.

Kagwe further told Kenyans to be each one’s keeper even as the traders are asked to maintain thorough hygiene when dealing with their clients.

Five more positive cases were confirmed in the country Thursday, raising the total to 184.

“I want to urge Kenyans to take care of themselves and look out for each other as well because this virus is transmitted from one person to another,” the CS added.

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The government has issued a directive on salons, barbershops, vegetable vendors and the Jua kali sector to always put on masks and ensure their clients have done the same as a protective measure.

Kenya has imposed a dusk to dawn curfew nationwide, with travel restrictions to and from counties of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale which were classified as high risk areas.

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Not wearing a mask will land you in jail, Kagwe warns – KBC

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Not wearing a mask will land you in jail, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe warns

Kenyans risk hefty fines or risk jail term if found not wearing a mask according to the Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 41 signed by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe.

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The new directive aimed at curbing the further spread of Coronavirus/Covid-19 will see Kenyans found violating the Ministry of Health’s order-pay Ksh 20,000 or risk a jail term not exceeding six months.

“A person who commits an offence under these rules shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding twenty thousand shillings or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both,” read part of the gazette notice.

Citizens found not wearing a mask while using a public or private transport and observing social distance of not less than one metre in public places during the restriction period shall be found guilty.

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“Users of public or private transport and public transport operators shall wear a proper mask that must cover the person’s mouth and nose and also maintain a physical distance of not less than one metre.”

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The new orders from Health CS Mutahi Kagwe will also see organizations business entities, traders or vendors whether in a market or enclosed premises provide at their business location or entrance to their premises, a handwashing station with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer approved for use by the Kenya Bureau of Standards.

According to the new rules, burials or cremations of loved ones who die to Coronavirus/Covid-19 will be carried out within 48 hours from the time of death.

The Government has also limited the attendance at the funeral to fifteen people and at the same time banned night vigils held in relation to a funeral.

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