The Nigerian government and South Africa are engaging to improve their collaboration in the manufacturing sector under the platform of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and also to enhance the film industry in both countries.
The High Commissioner of South Africa to Nigeria, Thami Nseleku, made this known in an interview with reporters after a live stage play entitled ‘Philomena’ in Abuja on Sunday night, stressing that the script is dealing with very serious issues in the society.
The performance put together by K’iKe Production, was about a young woman called Philomena (Monalisa Chinda) who went through a very bitter experience of teenage pregnancy, rejection and rape. She however, got strength from such harrowing experience and surmounted the obstacles to become better in life.
The play also depicted the hardship faced by very educated and unemployed people as well as the issues of unnecessary retrenchment in the work places and their impacts on the society. It featured Area (Ejike Asiegbu) a PhD holder teaching in primary school and Wilston Nkemakolam (Francis Duru) who played the role of a sacked journalist among other notable artists in the cast.
On the issue of the AfCFTA, the South African envoy said the main issue is to make the agreement work in practice not just on paper and for that to happen the leading economies of Africa should collaborate.
He noted that African economies have collaborated when it came to negotiation about the AfCFTA in the aspects of that agreement like standards. He however, noted the agreement must trickle-down to real business and the two counties could strengthen the agreement to make it more inclusive.
“For example, in South Africa we have a very strong and established car manufacturing industry. In Nigeria we have the potential of reviving the textile industry, the clothing industry, the fabric industry. Those cars need the fabric industry, those cars need the textile industry.
“So, we can actually collaborate to complete the manufacturing of the cars” he said, adding that both countries can benefit from the engineering of car manufacturing.
Reacting to the script, Ambassador Nseleku, said, “The script itself is dealing with very serious issues of our society. I like the fact that it is focusing on women and the manner in which our women are finding themselves in difficult situations as a result of whether we call it gender violence in the manner in which we treat our women as young girls.
“Philomena at sixteen found herself in this situation that shaped her life and that to me is a very important issue.
“Of course, it was brought to life by a vibrant and experienced cast, it was a beautiful script in the hands of very beautiful artists that were able to present it. I wish we can find some day where we can actually find this kind of performance in the stages of South Africa and vice versa. So, we are working toward that dream because a script like this is universal.”
He noted that his country is preparing for collaboration in terms of film festivals with Nigeria, adding that in the music industry there is a lot of collaboration going on independent of diplomatic relations.
“This is the first time I am seeing the stage part of Nigeria; I am more exposed to the film and music industry. There are beautiful actors in Nigeria, who are very experienced in stagecraft and we have similar actors with lots of experience in similar craft. We need to find a way to cross-pollinate,” he said.
Renowned actress, Monalisa Chinda, who played the role of Philomena, told reporters that the focus was to bring out the social issues and use advocacy of stage performance to address the issues even as she emphasized more government involvement in addressing the social ills in the society.
“With this advocacy we are sending a message across the country. There are a whole lot of issues going on with the girl -child and other issues in our society. You can see Area for instance who is a PHd holder in Biochemistry but he is teaching in a primary school. A lot of Nigerian PhD holders are driving taxes, driving bikes. The government can do better, we know that the government cannot do everything but at least they can ensure that we have jobs and security.
“There are a lot of messages in this particular Philomena, we are also talking about a very sensitive area, which is parenting, parents are not doing their jobs and it is a failure on their part.
“Basically, it is an act of evangelism. Philomena has come to stay and we are going to do a series on it,” she said.