Helping Zimbabweans to ‘Steppe in Sync’

a version of this interview is to appear in the 5th edition of the Film Biz Africa magazine

Steppes in Sync is a creative platform that connects Zimbabweans involved with creative industries with investors across the globe.

Film Biz Africa magazine was privileged to interview Andy Kozlov, Ukrainian creativity maven behind Steppes in Sync, who says:

Film Biz Africa is a Nairobi-based bi-monthly publication about the business side of African film
I have  always been interested in the role of cultural industries in sustainable development. While studying for my BA degree in history,  I got fascinated by people’s use of creative tools to inspire development in unstable economic environments like Africa and in parts of Europe like my home country, Ukraine. (See How culture contributes to development: an UNESCO indicator suite)
Film Biz Africa: Tell us about Steppes in Sync, what inspired you to start this initiative and how has the response been so far?
Andy Kozlov:The idea of Steppes in Sync came to me at the end of 2010 during the preparations for my second trip to Zimbabwe. Initially, Steppes in Sync was a personal blog where I would publish original or reposted material about topics like South-South cooperationdevelopment communication, and African film and literature.
 As the blog’s content grew, I managed to get occasional contributions from others – among them Tendai Huchu, a Scotland-based Zimbabwean author of novel The Hairdresser of Harare, as well as Malian film-maker Intagrist El Ansari, who worked on Yann Arthus-Bertrand‘s projects such as 6 Billion Others and the highly-acclaimed film Home.
 As for the people’s response to the Steppes in Sync initiative so far, we are still at the research phase but, as of recently, we nurtured promising collaborations with creative minds from countries like Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, apart from our countries of focus – Ukraine and Zimbabwe. I have become an official representative of an African film distribution company, Afriwood, in the Russian-speaking markets. (See Afriwood to participate in 2012 Ukrainian Content Market)
The front page of the Bulawayo-based arts festival, Intwasa, web site

Steppes in Sync and a group of friends in the creative sector of Zimbabwe are currently  working on establishing the Africa Creative Content Agency, the goal of which is to  promote Zimbabwean talent abroad and strengthen information flow within the creative community there. We have discovered that despite the availability of various funding and publicity opportunities, Zimbabwean talent remains in the shadow, partly because there is fierce (and often blind) competition within the community. For example we are now in talks with the Bulawayo-based arts festival Intwasain southern part of Zimbabwe to manage their public image and attract more visitors from outside Zimbabwe. (See Navigating African cities through our own unique and diverse mental maps)

Film Biz Africa: Who does Steppes in Sync target in particular? Knowing that online media in Africa, particularly in the rural areas, are still in the bud, how do you intend to reach out to the creative talent on the continent? 

Andy Kozlov: The question of internet penetration in Africa is a good one that no-one really has an answer to.  Kenya, for example set the pace of mobile banking for the whole continent.  In the creative field, the South African pay TV Channel M-Net  recently launched the African Film Library availing to the public their 100-plus online library of films downloadable for a fee. They plan to expand it to 700 titles in the near future.

As for us, at present we are still experimenting – something emerging-market actors do, given the incredible lack of reliable data for Africa and often failing communication channels. But one thing we see coming up on the horizon is an increasing interest of Africans in what is going on in other parts of their continent. Cultural industries like film and television are no exception.

Film Biz Africa: Judging by the fact that Steppes in Sync connects international business and development experts to creative talent across the globe, which creative industry would you say has the greatest potential and why? 

Andy Kozlov: In a sense, making cute pots or wooden and soapstone statues can hardly be compared to highly-expensive TV or film productions. The former is usually a work of an individual artist. The latter requires collaboration of a team of people, each one of them with a set of specific creative skills. If you judge by the items that recently went under the hammer at Christie’s in New York, the returns from a single painting can fund roughly over 5,000 Nollywood-produced films. (See Copyright wars II: What “pirates” of Hollywood (read “American film-making pioneers”) share with Nollywood marketers)

One thing is for sure, in the world  that is undergoing a huge technological  transformation, an average video like Kony 2012  can go viral in an instant (See Bad bad video! Or what we’ve learned from KONY 2012 to change the world for better) and an expensive theater production somewhere in South Africa can go flop taking downhill  all the aspirations and promising careers of the actors and producers. No doubt for example, IT and web-supported cultural industries is the happening place for Africa. Look at Samsung. This Korean company is implementing a program in a host of countries in Western Africa as well as in Kenya to introduce  to the market TVs with an in-built satellite receiver. Something like this never took place anywhere else in the world. Christoph Limmer, senior director of marketing development and marketing, Africa, at SES (telecommunications company that helps broadcasters deliver almost 6,000 TV channels to over 245 million homes worldwide) put it this way commenting on the partnership with Samsung:

Our cooperation will not only help to improve access to digital content for African consumers but it will also encourage African broadcasters to launch more content. In servicing more than 40 African countries, we are well aware of the huge demand for more and higher quality TV services. The opportunity lies in providing an increasingly sophisticated African viewership with a significantly increased number of TV channels – a first for many African countries. (See 16 million eyes of ZBC viewers could add on several millions moreSinS book review. Africa Rising: how 900 million African consumers offer more than you thinkUkrainian Media Content Market 2012 scheduled for SeptemberTurkey’s ‘soap power’The World’s most inventive and pro-active television comes to town  and I want My TV in Afghanistan!)

Companies like Samsung have developed a nose for where the potential is. (See Africa-Asia prospects II: more solid research on Africa needed to inform Sino-African relations)

Film Biz Africa: What are your visions for Steppes in Sync?

Andy Kozlov: Steppes in Sync is first of all a platform for collaboration, and dissemination of creative-arts related information. There is a high demand for this in Africa and former Soviet nations. So, I can see us growing in the near future. African cultural market is by and large untapped. Africans are willing to learn. And it is important to collaborate with them, to teach them how to share ideas in a way that will contribute to their personal development and the development of their communities. We are certainly learning from Africa, too. So there is a lot of work to be done.

Film Biz Africa is a Nairobi-based bi-monthly publication about the business side of African filmChiaka Esther Orjiako edits the magazine.


One thought on “Helping Zimbabweans to ‘Steppe in Sync’”

  1. Very interesting interview. I was particularly stunned by the comparison of the sale of a painting in New York and how many Nollywood movies can be funded by its price. I guess it is a prime indicator of how wealth is distributed globally.

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