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  • Transcriber: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Camille Martínez

  • Woman: Doc? We're ready for you.

  • Mehret Mandefro: OK.

  • Man 1: Here we go. Places, please.

  • Last looks.

  • Man 2: We're at roll time.

  • Man 3: Rolling! Man 2: Roll cameras.

  • Man 3: A speed, B speed, C speed.

  • Man 1: Marker. And ... action.

  • MM: I started making movies 15 years ago,

  • during my internal medicine residency,

  • as one does.

  • I was doing HIV disparities research amongst Black women,

  • and that work turned into a documentary,

  • and I've been making movies ever since.

  • I like to think of the movies and shows I create

  • as a kind of visual medicine.

  • By that I mean I try to put stories on the screen

  • that address large social barriers,

  • like racism in America,

  • gender inequities in Ethiopia

  • and global health disparities.

  • And it's always my hope that audiences leave inspired to take actions

  • that will help people hurdle those barriers.

  • Visual medicine.

  • Most of the time, I live and work in Ethiopia,

  • the country I was born in,

  • and currently, I sit on the advisory council

  • of the Ethiopian Government's Jobs Creation Commission.

  • Now, I'm sure you're wondering what a doctor-turned-filmmaker,

  • not economist,

  • is doing working with the Jobs Creation Commission.

  • Well, I believe the creative industries,

  • like film and theater, design and even fashion,

  • can promote economic growth and democratic ideals in any country.

  • I've seen it happen,

  • I've helped it happen,

  • and I'm here to tell you a little bit more.

  • But first, some context.

  • Over the past 15 years,

  • Ethiopia has had amongst the fastest-growing economies

  • in the world.

  • This growth has led to a reduction in poverty.

  • But according to 2018 numbers,

  • unemployment rates in urban areas is around 19 percent,

  • with higher unemployment rates amongst youth ages 15 to 29.

  • No surprise, those numbers are even higher among young women.

  • Like the rest of Africa, Ethiopia's population is young,

  • which means as the urban labor market continues to grow,

  • people are aging into the workforce,

  • and there aren't enough jobs to go around.

  • So put yourselves in the shoes of any government

  • struggling to create enough good-paying jobs for a growing population.

  • What do you do?

  • I'm guessing your first thought isn't, "Hey, let's expand the creative sector."

  • We've been conditioned to think of the arts as a nice thing to have,

  • but not really as having a place at the economic growth and security table.

  • I disagree.

  • When I moved to Ethiopia four years ago,

  • I wasn't thinking about these unemployment issues.

  • I was actually thinking about how to expand operations

  • of a media company I had cofounded, Truth Aid, in the US.

  • Ethiopia seemed like an exciting new market for our business.

  • By the end of my first year there,

  • I joined a fledgling TV station

  • that exploded onto the media scene,

  • Kana TV,

  • as its first executive producer and director of social impact.

  • My job was to figure out

  • how to produce premium original content in Amharic, the official language,

  • in a labor market where the skills and education for film and TV was limited.

  • There was really only one way we could do it.

  • We would have to invest heavily in training.

  • I was charged with training the scripted drama team,

  • and there was really only one way we could do that:

  • on the job,

  • paying my employees to make TV while they learned how to make TV.

  • Their average age was 24,

  • it was their first job out of university,

  • and they were eager to learn.

  • We built a world-class studio and began.

  • The first show we created as a product of our training

  • was a scripted series with a powerful family at the center

  • called "Inheritance."

  • The second show was Ethiopia's first teen drama,

  • called "Yegna,"

  • and was made in partnership with the nonprofit Girl Effect.

  • These shows turned the cast into overnight stars

  • and won audiences over,

  • and the best part of my job quickly became

  • running what was essentially a content production talent training factory.

  • Kana would go on to make several original content shows,

  • including a health talk show I created called "Hiyiweti,"

  • which translates into "my life."

  • Now, this is obviously great for Kana,

  • but we were doing something bigger.

  • We were creating a model for how training becomes employment

  • in a market where creating new jobs, especially as it relates to young people,

  • is among the largest of demographic challenges.

  • Now, you can't say

  • you took a bite out of a large social problem like unemployment

  • if the jobs you create only serve the interests

  • of a single private sector company,

  • which is why I didn't stop at TV.

  • I wanted the crews I had trained

  • to have exposure to international standard production

  • and was so thrilled

  • when a Canadian-Irish coproduction that I was executive producing

  • came to Ethiopia to shoot the feature film "Sweetness in the Belly."

  • I contacted the CEO of the state-owned tours in Ethiopia

  • to see if we could use this film as a learning case study

  • for how government can support filmmaking and filmmakers.

  • The argument was,

  • films can promote economic growth and attract tourism dollars

  • in two key ways:

  • by bringing production work to Ethiopia and, more importantly,

  • by promoting Ethiopia and its unique cultural assets

  • to the world.

  • The latter taps into a nation's expressive power.

  • The government was incredibly receptive and supportive

  • and ended up providing logistical and security support

  • above and beyond what a lone producer could provide on her own,

  • especially to such a large film crew.

  • With their help, we were able to complete shooting the feature film

  • under very challenging conditions,

  • and I was able to hire my TV crews so they could deepen their experiences

  • and work alongside a world-class film crew.

  • This meant our employees could mature and grow

  • and move up their own respective career ladders,

  • not just in our company but in the market at large.

  • Members of our crew have gone on to start their own production companies,

  • joined ad agencies, communication firms,

  • even other TV stations.

  • To me, this multiplier effect is what it's all about.

  • But the story gets better.

  • This was right around the time the Jobs Creation Commission

  • hired me to conduct a diagnostic study

  • to assess the unmet needs of subsectors like film, visual arts and design

  • and see what government could do to respond to those needs.

  • After we completed the study,

  • we made policy recommendations to incorporate the creative economy

  • in the National Jobs Action Plan

  • as a high-potential services industry.

  • This led to a larger effort called Ethiopia Creates,

  • which is just beginning to organize the creative industry entrepreneurs

  • in the sector

  • so the sector can thrive.

  • Ethiopia Creates recently organized a film export mission

  • to the European film market,

  • where a team of Ethiopian filmmakers were able to pitch their projects

  • for potential financing opportunities.

  • Now, putting culture on the economic agenda

  • is an incredibly important milestone.

  • But the truth of the matter is,

  • there's far more at stake than just jobs.

  • Ethiopia is at a critical juncture, not just economically but democratically.

  • It seems like the rest of the world is at a similar make-or-break moment.

  • From my perspective on the ground in Ethiopia,

  • the country can go one of two ways:

  • either down a path of inclusive, democratic participation,

  • or down a more divisive path of ethnic divisions.

  • If we all agree that the good way to go is down the inclusive path,

  • the question becomes: How do we get there?

  • I would argue one of the best ways to safeguard democracy

  • is to expose everyone to each other's stories, music, cultures and histories,

  • and of course, it's the creative economy that does that best.

  • It's the sector that helps teach civil society

  • how to access new ideas that are free of bias.

  • Artists have long found ways to inspire inclusion, tell stories and make music

  • for lasting political impact.

  • The late, great American hero, Congressman John Lewis,

  • understood this when he said,

  • "Without dance, without drama, without photography,

  • the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings."

  • (Bell rings)

  • Man 1: OK, we're back.

  • MM: Now imagine how much more effective music, films and arts would be

  • if artists had good-paying jobs

  • and the government supported them.

  • In this case, economic growth and democratic growth

  • go hand in hand.

  • I think any government that views arts as a nice thing to have

  • as opposed to a must-have

  • is kidding itself.

  • Arts and culture in all of their forms

  • are indispensable for a country's economic and democratic growth.

  • It's precisely countries like Ethiopia that can't afford to ignore

  • the very sector that has the potential to make the greatest civic impact.

  • So just as John Lewis understood

  • that the civil rights movement could not take flight without the arts,

  • without a thriving creative sector that is organized like an industry,

  • Ethiopia's future, or any other country at its moment of reckoning,

  • cannot take flight.

  • The economic and democratic gains these industries afford

  • make the creative economy essential to development and progress.

  • Thank you.

  • Man 1: And ... cut!

  • (Applause and cheers)

Transcriber: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Camille Martínez

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B1 TED ethiopia creative sector growth film

How a strong creative industry helps economies thrive | Mehret Mandefro

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/02/08
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