Disrupting The Kenyan Movies Industry

I just read a very well written and thought-provoking article on how piracy affects the Kenyan movie industry: Secrets About Piracy Revealed By Jitu Films Director. It seems that a very interesting problem plagues our industry:

  • Piracy is apparently illegal in Kenya.
  • However, all those “DVD for 50 bob” shops in town sell nothing but illegal pirated stuff. But they sell foreign films and so no one bothers to go after them. (An instance of how the law fails local film makers).
  • Those shops in town can never dare try to sell Kenyan movies because they need a special license to do so and because if they did, the city council will be on top of them quickly.
  • This presents an interesting problem for local film makers: they cannot hope to compete on price with foreign films. Would you buy “The Rugged Priest” at 100/- when “Avatar” is available at 50 bob?
  • To add to that, there is no local DVD factory hence local film makers have to import these and pay import taxes on top of all the other ‘normal’ taxes int heir industry. Essentially, they are unable to sell their movies at 50 bob and remain financially viable. The illegal shops in town selling pirated stuff pay no taxes.
  • This creates a situation where locally made movies are more expensive than foreign movies. They are also harder to find because to sell them you need a special licence which the 50 bob shops typically do not get.

Of course this creates an industry in which it is difficult to make much good money. What do you think can be done to overcome these problems?

IN my mind, piracy is a problem that can be best solved by offering a more convenient alternative. However, I am not to sure what, exactly, can be done to bring up such an alternative.

Through my brief work with Space Yangu, I read numerous emails from people asking us where they could buy Kenyan movies. I believe there’s demand here and money to be made – someone just needs to figure out the logistics. I can think of two approaches to a solution:

  1. Someone to open a chain of little shops in Nairobi (and eventually elsewhere) to sell Kenyan movies. (this was suggested in the linked article)
  2. Someone could open up a huge online shop that sells and delivers a wide selection of Kenyan movies. Perhaps it could eventually lead to a Netflix like service.

What do you think can be done?

Additional Resources


  1. Its a question of semantics —

    There is no big difference between 50/- and 100/- so I think the industry has kinda missed the point.

    Guys who buy 50/- movies do not buy one 50 bob movie, they buy several.

    So I think if the Kenyan industry sells at 100/- then they will definitely get buyers.

    But just like the big Movie corporations who made RapidShare/Fileserve/Hotfile delete all their content during the SOPA threat — because they were unable to compete with these filesharing sites.

    They have too many restrictions. They try to divide us into regions and tell us that they have not released that episode or movie to that region yet; and give us different ending for different regions. They try to make a dollar for every extra MB you download.

    We dont care about that – we just want to watch a movie – and Filesharing sites just gave us what we wanted.


    When applied to the local industry — it is simple.

    Try to make Churchill re-runs, or XYZ re-runs, or Machangi episodes available at normal mwananchi rates in selected licensed shops around town (even the 50 bob ones)

    However – the 50/- guys will not make copies of the local content – they will receive them already made by distributors.

    Each local dvd will have a City-Council stamp and sold separately (they can have spies to ensure this is adhered to) at around 100/-

    The returns will be split between the distributors and the retailers.

    But unfortunately; the producers of local programs do not want old episodes resold; even after the audience has watched them (so I have been told)

    They would rather have them rotting in a box in the studios

    And that is why piracy rules !!

    • Glamarie says:

      true. i share your sentiments, its high time thge producers stop waiting on government policies and find a way to work with what they have. otherwise the film industry is just going to go under.

  2. It hurts me that Kenyan film industry ain’t doing nth about this and this is the problem. I mean solutions are there but what are people doing? SLEEPING ON THE JOBS. Hustlers won’t wake you up, they will pirate!

  3. I have read some of the articles on why your Movie Industry is not making BIG BUCKS. I think one of the problems which was highlighted is the lack of DVD making factories in Kenya. The govt should then invest or liaise wiyh Chinese companies to come into such business. In Nigeria, they abound; and that is why DVDs here are not expensive. We are interested in the Movie Industry in Kenya and want to come in an shoot films. Ghana Film Industry has grown so big after Nollywood got involved.

    • Kenya’s problem with small profit margin goods is demographics. We don’t have a large enough population to warrant companies to invest in such expensive machinery. Thats why Nigeria, China, India etc can but for us, unless government subsidizes- and that wd be dumb economics.

  4. The problem with Kenyan Movies is that they want to sell, but they do not want to put in effort. Exxample, calls on Airtel cost sh1 a minute. Heck, YU has FREE CALLS ALL DAY. Yet, (This programme with character called JB?) whatsitsname, does fake calls. There is a perfect example of a really good movie that sold quite well- MALOONED. Nice movie, got bought.
    About the Piracy issue, it has been ironed out quite successfully by MCSK by having agents around. Local music stopped being pirated significantly enough for artistes to make good returns

    • The MCSK only looks out for the music industry. Who is assisting in panning out the Movie industry? if any?

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