The rise of Nollywood: Nigeria’s film industry represent a real boost to Africa’s economy

In the last 20 years, Nigeria’s film industry has grown to become the largest in Africa, enough to represent the 5.2 % of the continent’s projected growth for last year (according to CEO of the government-owned Nigeria Export Import Bank, Robert Orya), with a revenue of US $590 million generated this year. Nollywood rise in the last 20 years amounts to as much as US $7.2 billion, which represents more than 1.4% of Nigeria’s GDP (Oxford Business Group). In the country considered Africa’s largest economy, film industry is currently the second employer after agriculture, employing 1 million people in its whole (including distribution and screening).

Though despite a huge audience (20 million people worldwide) and some 2000 films produced annually (CNB Africa, twice as many as Hollywood), Nollywood distribution network still cannot compete with Western countries and Bollywood, with only 100 screens diffusion of pirated material, are cause a huge losses for box office revenues. But the situation is changing: the number of films shown in movie theatres before going to DVD is gradually increasing, and one of the most popular streaming website, IRoko, recently turned subscription only.

More importantly, Nigeria’s government has finally realized the immense value of the sector, announcing a series of measures to boost the industry.

The “Project ACT Nollywood”, launched in January 2015, will grant US $10 million to build an “Innovation Distribution Fund” aimed at improving the distribution of audio-visual content, cut down on piracy, and to better protect intellectual property in the industry”; US $1.5 million will be assigned to the Capacity Building Fund to enhanced the educational offer for industry practitioners; and finally, the Film Production Fund will allow to co-finance “commercially viable film projects” with grants of up to US $50 000.

Nollywood is already receiving international attention: with Nollywood films accessible now not only on Nollywood-specific streaming sites but also in the international platform Netflix, and an increasing number of international productions, Nigerian cinema is going global.

Biyi Bandele’s Half of a Yellow Sun (2013) is probably Nigeria’s most famous film with a cast featuring international stars as Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Shot in Nigeria, hiring mostly Nigerian crew (about 60%), and with Nollywood’s biggest-ever budget (US $10 million), the film represented a major opportunity for local practitioners who could benefit from the experience of working on a full-scale, high-budget feature film production; and brought visibility to Nigerian film industry, placing the nation on the map for future productions.

May 6, 2015
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