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The evolution of Nigeria movie industry: Nollywood

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The video-film industry of Nigeria has been described as one of the greatest explosions of popular culture that Africa has ever seen. It is the first economically self-sustainable film industry in Africa.

Last year, the Nigerian government released data showing tha t Nollywood is a $3.3 billion industry. After the release of that data, Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics also collated data that highlighted Nollywood’s greatest shortcoming: ‘severe revenue bleed’.

Of the industry’s $3.3 billion valuation less than 1 percent was tracked from official ticket sales and royalties.

The rest came from pirated reproductions sold by unauthorized vendors for roughly $2 each. As a result, producers and financiers see only a fraction of the movie industry’s economic value. Initially through the use of video technology, and now affordable digital technology, Nigeria produces more than 2000 films per year.

The industry, popularly called Nollywood, is currently ranked as the second-largest in the world in terms of output after India’s Bollywood.

Nollywood’s popularity has spread across the African continent, to the African diaspora in Europe, North America and Australia. It has even gone as far as the Caribbean and Pacific Islands.

OVERCOMING THE CHALLENGE

The first seeds for the emergence of the industry were planted in the late 1980s. Nigeria was experiencing difficulties as a result of political unrest and measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

This economic climate made film-making on celluloid prohibitively expensive, and created a fertile ground for other, more affordable methods to emerge. In 1992, in Nigeria, electronics salesman Kenneth Nnebue shot a straight-to-video movie in one month, on a budget of just $12,000.

Living in Bondage sold more than a million copies, mostly by street vendors, and Nollywood – Nigeria’s movie industry – was born.

“The film follows the tale of a man who joins a secret cult and murders his wife in a ritual sacrifice to gain wealth. It is set within the thematic and stylistic characteristics of superstition, witchcraft, religion, the quest for upward mobility and melodrama in Lagos’s urban landscape.

It explores corruption, love triangles and domestic dispute.” All themes have since been replicated in many Nollywood narratives.

THE TRANSITION FROM VHS TO DIGITAL

Since the VHS industry of the 1990s, Nollywood has embraced digital technology. The industry captures the entrepreneurial spirit of Nigeria through the use of affordable and accessible technology.

These are small-scale digital cameras, desktop editing software, and distribution primarily on DVD and video compact disc. These sell for around $2 per copy in Nigeria, and are watched at home, on street corners, in cineclubs or in video parlors.

While the term Nollywood is generally used to refer to the entire industry, it is important to note that it is not unified. There is a great deal of diversity and many different variations.

Different genres exist, including horror, melodrama, comedy and action, as well as language divisions. It also includes films in English, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa. Despite its enormous output, financing was low, with the average budget for a Nollywood film being around $20,000 to $75,000.

The industry was often criticized for low production values. It was characterized by rapid turnaround times, the lack of script development, bad lighting and sound, low-budget effects and amateur editing. Directors were mostly self-taught, and were often less important and lower down the Nollywood food chain than stars, producers and distributors. Distributors often act as producers.

Despite all of this, the popularity of Nollywood demanded film aficionados, scholars, festivals and cinema programmers to take it serious. Currently, a growing body of Nollywood scholars have emerged over the past 15 years.

THE NEW FACE OF NIGERIA MOVIE INDUSTRY: ‘NEW NOLLYWOOD’

A number of Nollywood directors have started to make higher quality films. These are sometimes referred to as “New Nollywood”, New Nigerian Cinema, or the New Wave.

These films are seen more widely than standard Nollywood fare and are accessible to non-African audiences. New Nollywood includes the work of directors such as Kunle Afolayan, Obi Emelonye, Jeta Amata, Stephanie Okereke and Mahmood Ali-Balogun.

The budgets raised for the production of films have also increased considerably, ranging from $250,000 to $750,000.

The production cycles are also much longer. The New Nollywood films are therefore recognized as very different from the low budget video format films of old.

By 2009, Nollywood had surpassed Hollywood as the world’s second largest movie industry by volume, right behind India’s Bollywood. Critics note that while Nollywood has volume, it lacks production value, and African actors have yet to breakout globally.

“The truth is key players in the global movie industry still have little idea what Nollywood is about,” said Nigerian producer Kunle Afolayan.

“The volume won’t matter until we can connect the art to the money with better content and profits.” Red-carpet premieres attracting huge audiences now take place regularly across the world from Nigeria to other African cities and urban centres with a big African diaspora.

Film festivals internationally have also picked up on its huge popularity. Special programs with a Nollywood focus have taken place in Paris, London and New York, among others.

Many observers believe that the global reach of African films could take off, led by video on demand (VOD) platforms and productions of Nigeria — the continent’s largest economy and most populous nation. Such examples include pay-TV networks and free-to-air broadcasts across the continent and beyond. South Africa’s M-Net, which broadcasts across Africa, has channels dedicated to Nollywood.

Intrepid distributors, mostly from the African diaspora, have created such platforms, video-on-demand, for Nollywood. One example is the huge iROKO tv. This has increased accessibility to African diaspora audiences.

Even Netflix has acquired a number of Nigerian films, indicative of the platform’s realization of Nollywood’s popularity and commercial potential across the world. . Earlier this year, Nollywood Producer Kunle Afolyan reached an exclusive Netflix distribution arrangement for his latest film, October 1. This adds to the 10 Nollywood related titles already on Netflix and the U.S. media company’s recent $12 million movie rights purchase of Nigerian novel Beasts of No Nation, to star Idris Elba.

THE APPEAL OF HOMEGROWN STORIES AND CHARACTERS

But it is in Africa that Nollywood has had the greatest impact. For African audiences who have for decades been fed imported films, the development of a local, homegrown film industry was hugely significant and important.

Nollywood’s popularity has spread across the continent and Nollywood films are watched all over Africa, from Kenya and Tanzania to Cameroon, Guinea and Togo. They are sometimes dubbed or translated through live interpretation at public screenings.

The model has also been exported and adapted across the continent. Videofilm industries have been emerging in many countries, including Riverwood in Kenya, Ugawood in Uganda, Bongowood in Tanzania and Ghollywood in Ghana.

There are also similar industries in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Zambia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The most obvious explanation is that the films display familiar and recognizable cultural beliefs, lifestyles, traditions, societal and sociocultural structures, histories, settings and locations.

Their themes and narratives tap into the fears, dreams and aspirations of audiences. Nollywood seems set to expand, grow and diversify along with audience tastes, viewing habits and the industry’s technological advancements.

This is also evident in the hugely popular Tanzanian video-film industry, Bongowood. Tanzanian audiences initially watched imported Nollywood films, but from the early 2000s aspiring local filmmakers started to produce their own video-films.

The popularity of local Bongo films now outweighs Nollywood films in their country. As Africa’s VOD platforms improve prospects for the continent’s films by formalizing revenue and distribution streams, Nollywood may not be the only industry to profit. U.S. digital content purveyors could benefit too.

“If we can solve these monetization challenges for African creative content, it can apply to any creative content,” said Jason Njoku.

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Nigeria

Nigeria’s economy to experience higher growth if liquidity can be unlocked

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“Unlocking Liquidity will restore growth and stability for Nigeria,” Ayo Teriba, Economist and CEO, Economic Associates.

If Nigeria is to achieve sustainable economic growth and stability in its economy, unlocking liquidity must be given top priority.

Dr. Ayo Teriba, an economist and CEO, Economic Associates, made explained this point at the Q2, 2019 one-day quarterly conference on Nigeria’s economic outlook in Lagos.

He decried the fact that Nigeria was at the low end of the liquidity ladder in Africa, arguing that the situation had to be addressed urgently.

Liquidity he pointed out was critical to increasing the nation’s external reserves that serve as a buffer against shocks in commodity prices.

One of the ways he believed Nigeria could improve its liquidity, is by attracting capital inflows, which was important considering the revenue challenges of the government.

In the evolving race for global liquidity, Teriba made a strong case for the alignment of policies to strengthen liquidity.

According to him, “The Federal Government is focused on growth, while the Central Bank of Nigeria is concerned about stability. There is no express concern about liquidity”.

He was of the view that liquid markets are about making sure that there are buffers against shocks, and for Nigeria, having more capital inflows was important than outflows.

Speaking further Teriba identified the various options for unlocking liquidity in the economy, which include;

Privatization: Which implies partially selling its equity across all State-Owned Enterprises, SOEs to retain a minority stake. (Brownfield Foreign Direct Investment Inflow)

Liberalization: This implies the development of idle land and building and unbundled infrastructure projects. (Greenfield Foreign Direct Investment Inflow).

Commercialization: Getting rental income from wholesale leasing of idle lands and buildings.

Securitization: This suggests securitization of future income streams from all financial and non-financial assets.

Teriba called for a strategic reform of revenue generation in the federation and across all tiers of government.

The economist stressed the need for Nigeria to move beyond exports, taxes and debts towards rental income and equity. He stressed that Nigeria had a lot to gain from securitizing its assets.

Some of the assets he identified for the government to consider are the following;

Corporate Assets: Which are government wholly-owned or majority equity holdings in State-Owned Enterprises, SOEs.

Financial Assets: Which represent the government’s minority equity holdings in Joint Ventures and other companies

Tangible Non-Financial Assets: Taking the steps of commercializing and securitizing idle lands and buildings, amongst other assets.

Giving further insight on capital flows, he identified foreign direct investment, FDI and Remittances as the major types that Nigeria should utilize.

He gave an example of Saudi Arabia that has developed a privatization plan worth $ 100bn, which will bolster the liquidity of the Gulf nation.

Dr. Teriba also referenced the Liberalization and Privatization plans of India, that has positioned the densely populated nation, as one of the leaders in FDI.

The CEO of Economic Associates was of the strong view that Nigeria needs a robust strategy to attract more foreign investments to compensate for lost export revenues.

In an interactive session with participants, he called on Nigeria to explore how it can leverage the Diaspora remittances, noting Africa was one region that had a challenging environment for remittances. Currently has a foreign reserve of approximately $45bn which can triple within a year, if it prioritizes unlocking liquidity through the various capital inflow options available.

Coming into 2019, considering various views on FX stability and expected calmness in the polity post-election had revealed an improvement in economic growth over the year. Notably, growth was projected to be anchored on stronger performance in the non-oil sector as the lower investment in the oil sector– save for the addition of the Egina oil field – amidst shut-ins at key oil exporting pipelines will result in slower growth in the oil sector and by extension a much slower contribution to overall GDP. Notwithstanding, the optimism of stronger contribution from the non-oil sector, has boosted the impact of the innovative programmes by key industry players in the ICT on the overall subsector growth. Reflecting the improved activity in the ICT subsector in Q1 19, coupled with recovery in both the Agriculture and manufacturing sectors, economists expect a much robust growth in GDP over 2019 by 20bps to 2.2% YoY (FY 18: 1.9% YoY).

Starting with the harbinger of growth, some economists retain their surmise on most sub-sectors in the nonoil territory with slight changes to services – driving a nonoil sector growth of 1.8% YoY (FY 18: 2.1% YoY). While some made an upward adjustment to the growth assumption for ICT subsector, the high base of growth in the prior year, the lull in the real estate and slower growth of credit creation in financial services is expected to constrain the rate of growth for the overall services sub-sector. In the ICT subsector, the upward projection to the assumption emanated largely from the now telling impact of the innovative customer acquisition programs. For financial services, notwithstanding the recent policies aimed at enhancing private sector lending – there are not much traction, as banks remain cautious in growing their risk assets. Lastly, there’s a believe that activities in real estate sector would remain muted given its oversupplied state. That said, activities in services is expected to expand modestly by 1.7% YoY (FY 18: 3% YoY).

On Agriculture, there is an optimistic view of a recovery in crop production due to favorable weather and government intervention aimed at curbing ongoing conflict in the northern region. On the government intervention, the RUGA (rural grazing area) settlement program was recently proposed, which requires each state to provide lands for the herders to grow their cattle. Though the program was suspended due to kickbacks from various states, there are positivity on some form of concession by the State government given the critical nature of the sector. Further buttressing the point is the ongoing discussions on a peace pact between the Zamfara state government and armed bandits in a bid to improve farming activities in the state. That said, economists expect the sector to grow by 3.2% YoY (FY 18: 2.3% YoY).  Elsewhere, while the general elections slowed activities in the manufacturing sector, some economic pundits see some traction in the sector beyond Q1 2019. Further upside would be payment of the minimum wage approved at the start of the year and successful implementation of the presidential order to clear the Apapa gridlock which had been a strain on producers over the last two years due to difficulty in transporting raw materials. That said the manufacturing sector is expected to grow by 2.13% YoY.

In the oil sector, it was highlighted at the start of the year that the plausible risk to crude oil production would be the resumption of militant attacks during the first quarter of 2019 should the electoral process get violent. With militant attacks out of sight, there is no impending risk to overall production asides minor pipeline leakages. Asides that, additional 200,000bpd capacity from Egina oilfield which resumed operations in January further supports the stance of increased production. For context, while NNPC is yet to provide any data on Nigeria’s oil production this year, the channel checks with external sources reveals that actual production touched 2mbpd (condensates inclusive) in April. That said, it is expected average oil production to print at 2.04mbpd – 6.4% higher than the prior year. Thus some economists suggest that the Nigerian economy will experience a 2019 growth estimate of 2.2% as against an initial prediction of 2% as a result of improvement in both the oil and non-oil sector.

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