Black Panther paves the way for investment in SA

Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia and Letitia Wright as Shuri in “Black Panther.” Photo Credit: Matt Kennedy/Marvel and Disney
Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia and Letitia Wright as Shuri in “Black Panther.” Photo Credit: Matt Kennedy/Marvel and Disney

Dear Mr President,

In response to your appointment of envoys to travel around the globe to seek investment for South Africa, one sector with immense cultural and educational enrichment, as well as the power to generate revenue, stands out for your consideration – the movie industry.

After Shaka Zulu, which is, to date, the most successful miniseries in the history of television worldwide, and The Lion King, the incredibly successful animated film and stage production, African imagery has achieved mediocre financial success. Until now.

Enter the US superhero film Black Panther, which is so far the world’s 10th highest-grossing film. Within a month of being released, Black Panther grossed well over $1bn (R12bn) and ticket sales are still climbing. This is a major record in the history of the movie industry and a major record for African imagery.

Notwithstanding the appreciated and valid academic intellectual criticisms levelled against the movie – “we have been duped, Black Panther is antirevolution” – the movie has had a positive impact on the pride and confidence of millions of black people worldwide, and has demonstrated, against all odds, the sheer power and potential in economic terms of African imagery and stories.

For South Africa and Africa’s film industry, this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the trillion-dollar Hollywood-driven movie, entertainment and merchandising industry and market.

Last year, luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton released a line of clothing inspired by the Basotho blanket, which also played a major part in Black Panther’s wardrobe collection.

Because of this, preparations are under way to stage a Pan-African fashion extravaganza in Lesotho that will be attended by top international designers and models. The event will be broadcast internationally and will lead to the establishment of a Pan-African design house in South Africa, and the fashion will be manufactured in Lesotho and other African countries for the global market.

Thanks to the global euphoria brought about by Black Panther, Marvel Studios and Disney (the producers of the movie), as well as Hollywood as a whole, will keep a brief window of opportunity open for South Africa and Africa to benefit from this windfall.

Negotiations for partnerships to produce the multibillion-dollar sequel will end in lucrative deals, which should be struck with South Africa.

This will bring Disney into a strategic alliance and meaningful joint venture, and lead to the establishment of a multibillion-dollar Pan-African movie studio/theme park/TV channel/resort city development project in South Africa.

With its management and technical expertise, and as a leader in global marketing and distribution, Disney will ensure the bankability of the Pan-African project, and see to it that it is attractive and assured of investment.

The project will incorporate the establishment of a special economic zone, which will come with agriculture, agroprocessing, cultural industries, manufacturing and other diversified support industries. This will include information technology innovation (Africa’s own Hollywood and Silicon Valley), human settlement, transportation and other infrastructure, realising Africa and the world’s modern sustainable village city model.

At last, those who demonstrate against their race’s underrepresentation by Hollywood in the US, especially at the prestigious Academy Awards, African-American actors, directors, producers and other professionals will have a home where they can cultivate their talents and gain control of this global entertainment market.

Perhaps the greatest opportunity and platform for the promotion of this African imagery in film demonstrated by Black Panther, and through other artistic and cultural products, will be the hosting in South Africa (and neighbouring countries) next year of the UN International Decade for People of African Descent reunion celebration. There will be thousands of participants at the Pan-African Festival of Arts & Culture 2019, and hundreds of thousands of visitors, who will contribute billions to tourism revenue.

To support this initiative for major investment in the South African and African film industry, we invite you, Mr President, with government, captains of industry and local celebrities, to attend a special celebratory screening of Black Panther when the announcement of the launch of the Pan-African movie studio/theme park/TV channel/resort city development project is made.

- Malefane is chairperson of Highlands Investment & Development Consortium, and promoter of the Pan-African movie studio/theme park/TV channel/resort city development project

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