Raheem Akingbolu takes a look at the efforts by the promoters of African Digital TV Network, StarTimes, to deepen the relationship between Africa and China, citing the recent collaboration between the company and Beijing Municipal Bureau of Press and Publication to promote Chinese cultural fiestas in Nigeria.
Few years ago, the relationship between the Africans and the Chinese could only be defined by their business relationship. African market, with its huge potential provided promising market for the Chinese to explore. Over the years, the two markets have also enjoyed chummy relationship in the area of accessing raw materials, technical and training exchange among other things.
However, the relationship was further boosted few years ago, when African Digital TV Network operator, StarTimes, entered the market to explore the entertainment industry. In Nigeria, where the digital television company, collaborated with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), the relationship had immediately become a symbiotic one that offered a lot of opportunities for both. Today, Nigerians and Chinese are not only enjoying good working relationship, they are enjoying some cultural and social exchange.
In a bid to foster inter cultural promotion between Africans and Chinese, StarTimes, in conjunction with the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Press and Publication recently launched the annual broadcasting season and promotion of Chinese movies and cultural fiesta in Nigeria. The annual program also showcased the best of Chinese drama series for Nigerian lovers of Chinese entertainment and culture.
The event, which coincided with the launch of Chinese Cultural Festival in Abuja, tagged the 2016 Beijing TV Dramas and Movies Broadcasting Season exhibition, was meant to further strengthen the historical deep relationship between China and African countries, using cultural exchange as a vehicle of communication for the two sides.
Speaking on why China has always factored in Nigeria in its cultural and bilateral considerations, the Global Vice President of StarTimes, Ms. GuoZiqi, said relationship with Nigeria started from the 1970s, when China had cultural Centres for programmes in both countries.
“Nigeria is home to the largest subscribers of StarTimes and I believe that this cooperation will further promote the friendship between Nigeria and China. This event will screen five mega hot series and five star studded big budget movies such as Chasing After The Love, Woman From The Family of Swordsman, Mazu, Go Away Mr. Tumour, Finding Mr. Right, Beijing Love Story and Back In Time,’
She stated that Beijing leads China in producing TV dramas and movies, with more than 3,400 institutions specialising in Movie and TV production and operation, producing over 3,000 TV episodes and nearly 300 movies per year.
“Nollywood as you know represents both the culture and the economy of the country as Nigeria is in a big economy in Africa and we share some common grounds in terms of Nollywood and Beijing has over 3858 TV production houses.
“As you know, if you want to make a good production, the first stage will be to develop a very good script and look for a capable producer that will take it through good production process, be it in Hollywood or Nollywood. In China, we have distinctive aspect of all these institutions. The studio and production share a common ground that is market oriented. In Beijing, we have our own production process and I’m sure that promoters of Nollywood also have their own production process and also we can provide some insight for Nollywood on our own production process,” she added.
It was also stated that the event held in Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania in September initially for three months and last till September 2017 to further promote and consolidate inter cultural relations. It will also be used to promote movies and drama series.
Shedding more light on this, the Deputy Director of Beijing Municipal Bureau, Ms. Yang Peili said historically, China has maintained a deep and friendly relationship with African countries and that the cultural exchange is a major way of supporting the communication between the two sides. She noted that the launch of the Beijing TV Dramas & Movies Broadcasting Season in African countries aims at bringing more Chinese stories into Africa and promote the cooperation in film and TV industry between the two sides.
Head of Public Relations, StarTimes Nigeria, Mr. Israel Bolaji, remarked that the annual ceremony showcases the highlights of the best and new Chinese movies and drama series for Nigeria fans. At StarTimes, we offer life enriching content on movies, music, sports, news and kiddies.
He stated that after two years of development, the cultural event has become an endearing and enduring brand in Africa, which has helped popularise Chinese culture while facilitating friendly exchanges between China and Africa.
According to him “Hit Chinese TV drama series and movies dubbed into English, French and five African languages by StarTimes, were aired over last two years. TV dramas like Let’s Get Married, Beijing Youth, The Heart without Thieves, Battle to Save Marriage, The Young Doctor, The Sweet Burden, Mi Family’s Marriage, Ordinary World and movies such as Love Is Not Blind, 20 Once Again, The Left Ear, A Wedding Invitation have been well-received by our African audience.”
Nigeria Expectation from China
Speaking at the event, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Culture, Dr. Sade Yemi Esan, who was represented by a director in the ministry, Mr. Peter Dama said Nigeria and China has had some cultural relationship that dated back to several years in areas of information, trade, oil and gas, education and science and technology.
He said: “We are happy StarTimes and NTA have been working together on digitalisation processes. Already as you are all aware, the China radio has started broadcast in Hausa language, but we are appealing that this be extended to Igbo and Yoruba languages.”
He also disclosed that the Chinese Minister of Information recently visited the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Voice of Nigeria VON with the promise that China would be offering technical assistance.
While pressing for the actualisation of the assistance, Dama further stated that the ministry was aware of the fact that the Chinese are already coming in with some scholarship programmes to Africa and that about 1000 scholarships would be doled out, from which he urged China to give Nigeria at least 500 slots to further boost theatre and drama in the country’s media house.
The director, however, stated that Nigeria has her challenges with the Chinese, stating that movies from the country are not accorded the expected respect in China.
“It has been discovered that Nigerian movies are being screened in China and felt that while you are coming into the country through your platform, we would also appreciate that Nollywood should also be accommodated into your series, which is the greatest Africa drama series because we want to be clearly shown all over China. “As you penetrate Nigeria, we too want to penetrate China. However, we are also concerned about the activities of some unscrupulous Chinese businessmen who collaborate with some fraudulent Nigerian businessmen to pirate some of the hard works of some of our actors. They use Chinese infrastructure and system to pirate works done by hardworking Nigerians. We want the Chinese government to put a stop to this,” he stated.