Kenya courts Hollywood with film industry incentives

Spurred by South Africa's growing film sector, Kenya makes a push to win more of Hollywood's business

Kenya is rolling out the red carpet for Hollywood.

A group of senior officials in the Kenya government traveled from Nairobi to Los Angeles last week on a mission to promote more filming in the East Africa country.

Kenya has landed its share of high-profile movie credits, most famously Sydney Pollack's 1985 romantic epic "Out of Africa," with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. More recent films that have shot in Kenya include the 2005 Oscar-winning thriller "The Constant Gardener" with Ralph Fiennes.

But spurred on by South Africa's growing film sector, the country is eager to win more of Hollywood's business.

At a luncheon last week at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, senior government officials and business leaders from Kenya touted a new effort to boost the country's film industry.

"We're bigger, better and with more incentives — we're ready for business in the film sector," said Hassan Wario, Kenya's Cabinet secretary for sports, culture and arts, at the luncheon. "We say, 'Forget South Africa and welcome to Kenya.'"

Wario and his colleagues said the country is poised to enact new incentives that would provide up to a 32% rebate to filmmakers. South Africa offers a 25% reduction in qualified film expenses for foreign productions.

Filmmakers also would be exempt from paying taxes on capital expenditures. Fees for filming in national parks also would be waived.

The proposed incentives will be introduced in a finance bill in June and are fully supported by President Uhuru Kenyatta, said Kenya Film Commission Chairman Chris Foot.

He touted other advantages, such as low-cost labor and the country's diverse geography and wildlife.

"We're very fortunate that we've got everything from waterfalls to beaches," Foot said. "We have snow, we've got deserts, tropical rain forests.... We're the only country in Africa which represents every single African culture."

Foot spoke to an audience that included executives from CBS, Disney, Lionsgate and the talent agency UTA.

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