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Souad Houssein
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Souad Houssein


'We Give Insight Into The African Film Industry'

The Founder of OPAC Souad Houssein tells us in a candid conversation on the state of the film industry in Africa.

BY Agnes Amondi

Apr 11, 2023, 12:46 PM

Photo of

Souad Houssein

Photo by

Souad Houssein
Mrs Souad Houssein, a Franco-Djiboutian has spent the last 25 years working on the development of the film industry in French-speaking countries and particularly those within Africa. 

A large portion of her career has been spent within the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) which seeks to promote French culture within Francophone countries. She is also the Founder of the Pan-African Audiovisual and Cinema Observatory (OPAC). 

Mrs Souad is using these platforms to pursue her vision of having the continent gain full control and mastery of its film and audiovisual production industry.

We sought to find out more about OPAC and its contribution to the changing landscape of the film industry in the continent.

Why did you start the Pan-African Observatory of Audiovisual and Cinema (OPAC)?

Although cinemas in Africa have developed considerably over the past 15 years, it is clear that the industry remains under-exploited or even unexploited. 

According to a UNESCO study released in 2021, only about 50% of African states have a film policy. In order to encourage states and private investors to invest more, we need to have information and data that allows us to measure the economic potential of the industry, often considered unpredictable and budget-intensive, even though it can change the vision that the world has of us.

Additionally, the digital world has opened up the industry. It has contributed to the internationalization of African cinema, more production, exposure and improvement of the industry. Therefore it is beneficial to put everything under an observatory.

What can we expect from OPAC?

OPAC’s main mission is to serve as an economic lever to contribute to the growth of the cinematographic and audiovisual industry in African countries. 

We make it possible to understand the realities, capacity and trends of the image market in Africa which offers tangible assistance to policymakers and funders in terms of strategic visions and potential investments.  

Due to the data we’ve availed, it will be soon possible to remove the obstacles which very often penalize this industry and also encourage states to develop favourable public policies and invite public and private investors, both locals and foreigners, to support these sectors.
How has African cinema evolved over the years and is it better than it was before?

For the past 15 years, there’s been unprecedented growth in terms of the level of production, progress and diversification. This has been brought about by states recognising the importance of cultural and creative industries in the national economy, new international private and state-controlled partners, generational renewal, the increase of women in these sectors, the rise of digital platforms which have widened the audience and have led to unexpected income, the diversification of productions in terms of themes and genres, the rise of series and documentaries, the multiplication of festivals and writing workshops or co-productions.  

How do OPAC and Pavillon Afriques collaborate?

Africa’s Pavilion and future pan-African audiovisual and cinema observatory are two converging initiatives. 

First of all, they are carried by women from Africa and the African diaspora, they reflect the wishes of civil society to contribute to the empowerment of cinema and audiovisuals in Africa, they are pan-African in scope, and integrate the continent as a whole and will allow the pooling of resources, to move forward with a vision of African unity.  

These two initiatives are only possible because today the critical mass of African film production is sufficient to justify ambitious initiatives. Let us not forget that Nigeria is the second largest film producer in the world after India and before the USA.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?

During my career, cultural institutions gave little importance to grassroots initiatives. It seemed to me that sometimes project leaders were criticized for being too ambitious and other times their lack of ambition was pointed out. 

Additionally, institutions were creating their own tools rather than supporting initiatives that were of interest to the public. This resulted in limiting people’s creativity and disregarding the involvement of interested parties.

Fortunately, things are changing and we are integrating these two aspects because we understand that they can and must coexist.