Translation from French by Beti EllersonNew paths for Fepaci
Interview with Seipati Bulane-Hopa by Monique Mbeka Phoba
Current Secretary General of Fepaci
Published on July 7, 2009
After the Tshwane Congress [of 2006], do you have any thoughts about your two years as general secretary?
Yes, in fact I have drawn a number of lessons from this. I have the impression that, in making the choice of the people to be appointed, we had not established a type of statement of requirements, as is done everywhere when we want to fill a position, namely to describe the profile needed for a: President or / and Secretary General, Regional Secretary and Advisor at the level of the General Secretariat.
It was decided haphazardly by the good fortune of the people who were there and who had to be persuaded to volunteer. I myself was not a candidate, neither was Charles Mensah. We were both persuaded to present ourselves. I myself refused three times before finally accepting. We who form the current team, we do our job in good faith, with the competence that we bring, but this does not prevent a call for candidates, prior to the elections, which gives people time to prepare and declare their candidacies, and then, to analyze their skills and their motivations. A call for candidates, allows them an overview of what they can really bring to Fepaci in terms of financial means, available materials, strategic projects. A call for candidates allows them time to consult their government or their professional environment about their possible candidacy, which quite simply allows them to campaign--as with any election--before the election. For me it would have been a better procedure, preventing some of the inconveniences that we had to face. Our goal is to ensure that this list of criteria is established for the next Fepaci elections in 2011.
What were the difficulties that you and your entire team faced at the start of your tenure?
I can summarize them in three main categories:
1) Time lost in settling in: When the secretariat was assigned to South Africa, due to my election as secretary general, there was no kind of planning for this migration from the Burkina secretariat to South Africa. Our government was committed to organizing and funding the African Film Summit and supporting its recommendations. But, it was not prepared to welcome the general secretariat. At the Ministry of Culture, there was no budget for a Fepaci secretariat. However, all expenses are planned there. It took a long time to negotiate with the Ministry of Culture to have an operating budget. And the first year, we were quite simply totally in lack of means. Hence, the difficulty in starting our activities.
2) Psychological setbacks: On the side of Burkina Faso, which hosted the general secretariat, even when the general secretary was from Benin, as with the case of Jacques Behanzin, there was also confusion regarding the change of location. It was something that, psychologically, should have been better prepared. And the new administration has paid the price for this state of unpreparedness and these psychological impediments. I will not hide it from you. I have often said it to my entourage.
3) The problem of the location of the general secretariat: Moreover, I think that relocating the secretariat is not a problem of minor. A nomadic secretariat can break the Fepaci. If we move it every 4 years, at each election we will have a major problem with government support. Governments will ask themselves why invest in an institution that will move again tomorrow. This is a question I ask. Not that I am invested in the secretariat staying in South Africa, but for the sake of institutional logic. Burkina Faso can legitimately feel a certain amount of bitterness, after all the support it has given to the Fepaci secretariat, to see it now elsewhere. Furthermore, one of the consequences, psychologically, is that it has hindered a greater coordination between Fepaci and Fespaco, which I deeply regret. And this acrimony, other countries may experience under the same circumstances and, in anticipation, will temper their support. Yet, this support is essential. The secretariat must be able to obtain from the host country the HQ, an operating budget and the salaries for its team. These needs are fundamental and essential. Therefore, I repeat the importance of seriously considering this question of the location of the general secretariat.
In terms of the organization of the general secretariat itself, do you have any suggestions for a new way of operating?
You know, it seems to me that in terms of the resource persons at the secretariat level, there are professional profiles that are absolutely necessary to move forward and which we are lacking for the moment:
- A fund-raiser, someone whose sole function would be to search for funding, who has a perfect mastery of the financial resources available for a cultural organization such as Fepaci. Fund-raising has become a profession in its own right, very technical, and it is clear that fundraising has nothing to do with the way it was envisioned at the creation of Fepaci;
- A specialist in new audiovisual technologies: this is one of the most important parameters of audiovisual development in Africa. We are no longer just talking about production, but about distribution. We have gone from analog to digital, we need to have a clear picture across Africa of this new frontier. And, to understand the stakes involved of this economy of new technologies and new media, it seems to me that Fepaci cannot do without an expert on these issues.
- A specialist in marketing and advertising: it is a fact that Fepaci has an image to be made or (re-)made. I know that many filmmakers reject these aspects, but they are necessary to give more impact to the search for funding;
- A broadcasting specialist: how to broadcast by satellite, by Internet, by GSM. Developments in this area are extremely rapid. You have to be very specialized on this issue.
- A copyright specialist: even if this area is a no man's land in many African countries, the more we move towards the professionalization of the audiovisual market, the more urgent it is to resolve the issues around copyright. These specialists should be found not only at the executive secretariat level, but also at the level of each regional secretariat. We would then have an extraordinary force.
These are the kinds of developments that I hold dear and that seem to open up new avenues for Fepaci. And then, I also dream of a Fepaci TV, which serves to promote the works of African filmmakers, which allows us to react to highly topical issues, such as, for example, the death of the great Sembène Ousmane. Even if only on the Internet, I believe it would be an essential tool for Fepaci! I will not hide the fact that this whole program is still difficult to implement. I often hear: "But, we have not done it before." And then I answer: “All the more reason! ". Because why would I be here, if I have nothing to offer!
What is your assessment of these first two years of operation?
Regarding the outcomes of these first two years of operation, here is how I could present it:
In 2006-2007: 1) Following South African legal procedures, we progressed with the registration of Fepaci. It was essential to be able to be supported by the ministry. We have the statutes of a non-profit organization. We would have liked to be registered as a pan-African association, but, even if it were possible, it would have taken us too long. Eventually, this could be considered.
2) At Sithengi 2006, we organized the first regional meeting, during a colloquium to discuss Fepaci's strategy and a business plan.
3) We also held a symposium on intellectual property, where we brought in people working in this field.
4) In 2006, we also set up the Fepaci website.
5) We were able to create an email address, linked to the website, for all the regional secretariats: they are not actually used yet, but it is important for the visibility, the identification of the organization.
6) We visited the African Union in Addis Ababa, to meet the Commissioner in charge of Cultural Affairs, Madame Gawana, but during this visit a very painful event occurred for her, the death of her father, and we were not able to achieve all the objectives of this visit. 7) However, we were able to establish a kind of Memorandum of Understanding, which is a protocol that establishes the details of the relations between Fepaci and the African Union. One of the first steps to take, as recommended by the Fepaci Congress in Tshwane, is to conduct a study on cinema and audiovisual across the African continent.
1) We organized a symposium on audiovisual training in Namibia with the sub-regional secretariat for Southern Africa. It was a pilot symposium, to be replicated for every region of Africa.
2) We have started our monthly newsletters. The issue no. 6 will be released soon.
This article is part of a “Zoom” interview carried out during the Fespaco in February 2009 in Ouagadougou /// Article N °: 8743