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Film and Development in Rwanda

Authors: Ann-Elise Francis, and Ashley Harden
September 7, 2012
Council on Foreign Relations


This is a guest post by Ann-Elise Francis, special assistant to the vice president in CFR's Meetings and Membership department, and Ashley Harden, research associate in CFR's Women and Foreign Policy Program, on the "The Development Channel" blog. In the post they share findings from their recent trip to study Rwanda's nascent film industry.

Films have always been seen as a tool to create social change. They can also be a major driver of private sector growth. In the United States, the film industry supports 2.1 million jobs and pays approximately $143 billion in annual wages. Film industries in Africa—including South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria—are also significant. In Nigeria, "Nollywood" is the country's second-largest employer after the agricultural sector. It makes more than 2,000 films a year and generates roughly $250 million in revenues by exposing foreign markets to Nigerian-made films. As a result, support for the film industry is growing on the agendas on many African governments, including Rwanda's.

Rwanda's film industry has the potential to create jobs and generate capital, whether projects are funded by foreign production companies or Rwandan filmmakers. The industry has already attracted international investment, spurred entrepreneurship, and aided the growth of Rwanda's tourism sector. Films made by Rwandans have received international acclaim at many prestigious film festivals, such as Tribeca and Durban. Through film, Rwandan artists try to reclaim narratives presented about their country. Some explore the lasting effects of collective trauma generated by the 1994 genocide, while others focus on the promise of the future that an economically competitive Rwanda could bring.

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