There has been a concerted push for local content by the Kenyan government, through the I.C.T. Board, for a couple of years. They have even offered grants to companies to further the local content cause. You would imagine that by now we’d already have 40% of the content on our TVs locally made. This reality has been difficult to realize despite the goodwill of the government and presence of talented Kenyan creatives.

Scroll through the local TV stations at any time during the day and you will find them flooded with foreign content especially in the form of Nigerian movies and Mexican soaps. From a business perspective,makes some sense. It’s cheaper to buy this foreign content than to commission a local production. However, this is myopic as it will not lead to a sustainable TV and film industry. There have been cases where local producers have been offered similar amounts of money to produce their productions by broadcasters, that these broadcasters use to buy foreign content. This makes no sense, as in the former the content is already made and I highly doubt they had Kenya in mind when they were in production, and the latter is yet to be produced and hence requires adequate funds. There have also been claims made by filmmakers that broadcasters are not interested in high quality productions or certain story lines as they feel it will be ‘too much’ for Kenyans. Are we referring to the same Kenyans who watch ‘more advanced’ foreign content and understand it just fine?

Concerts are a great way to market an artist’s music and an even greater way to market a brand by attaching it to the artist. Local brands especially in the alcohol sector, have been visible at various concerts. This is all well and good, until you scrutinize the kind of artists being supported by these brands. They are either washed up foreign artists or unknown artists or even worse, one hit wonders especially of the reggae genre. The number of talented Kenyan musicians is phenomenal. You just need to attend the many open mic sessions and concerts in and around the city to get a taste. Why then would local brands feel the need to attach themselves at great cost to foreign artists that are either not that well known or whose sell by date is long passed? Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on an equally talented local artist to push a local brand?

Why do we preach local content but consume foreign content? It seems we do not appreciate our own art. If we did we would be asking for more of it. Kenya has a wealth of stories to tell. The day we realize the goldmine we’re sitting on, the discovery of oil will be second rate. Our films, TV shows, music and art can become a huge contributor to the growth of the economy. It will be of course expensive in the beginning, but if we focus on the long term gains, it’ll be well worth it. You know a country is prospering when its artists prosper. Buy Kenyan, support Kenyan.

First published in the Nairobian under the headline “No need of foreign taste to “spice” our local films” ; Issue No. 11 – May 10-16 2013