Long ago, most African countries were entertained by Indian, Chinese and American movies. However, in recent times the Nigerian Film Industry has stamped its legacy in film making in Africa and the world as it stands as the second largest film producing hub after Hollywood. Nollywood films have a large following in Africa and among Africans around the world. The industry gained popularity during the digital revolution of the early 1990s when camcorders replaced 35-millimeter film cameras and digital systems replaced celluloid as recording devices. In 1992, in Nigeria, electronics salesman Kenneth Nnebue shot a straight-to-video movie in one month, on a budget of just 12,000 dollars. Living in Bondage, the movie, sold more than a million copies, and Nollywood – Nigeria’s movie industry was born.
According to an article by Rebecca Moudio, Nollywood is the country’s second largest employer and job creator, employing over a million people in an economy that relies on agriculture and oil. With about 50 low budget movies produced per week, Nollywood generates an impressive over $590 million annually. World Bank finance and private sector specialist, Chioma Nwagboso says Nollywood propelled itself to the position it occupies today without initial support from the government, and a little lift could take the industry to even greater heights. “The focus is to take this popular movie industry, digitize it, and put the right framework around it to capture the proper value,” adds Jason Njoku. Moudio in her article reveals a million more jobs could be created in the sector only if the industry is properly managed. With regards to the amount generated annually, Charles Igwe in a report highlights that the success of Nollywood was based on the creation of stories and scripts that fitted into the Nigeria and African context, such as love, marriage and conflicts with mothers-in-law, betrayal, conflict, deception and triumph.
The effects of Nollywood do not just end in the film industry as it greatly influences trends in other sectors such as entertainment, education, and politics. Many African countries like Ghana, South Africa, Kenya and Rwanda boast of top notch schools for studies in film and TV production. More TV stations and cable networks are now dedicated to Nigerian and African Entertainment, for example Africa Magic which broadcasts Nigerian and African home movies and series. Writing and journalism have also witnessed a different twist as tons of websites and bloggers can earn a living without relying on the government or private companies for employment. With the rise of Nollywood, the music industry also rapidly gained ground. Music producer Joe Bass says some artists get as much as $1000 to perform at the premiere of a movie while others go beyond. All these put together employ millions of people and in a way reduce brain drain from Africa and encouraging long gone African talents to come home, a great catalyst for development.
Although criticized by some for poor production, mimicking mainstream concepts of Hollywood movies, and depicting recolonizing of Africa, Nollywood is still waxing strong as their movies are sources of African pride and inspiration. Actor Ernest Obi said, “We teach people things. If they call us colonial masters, too bad.” On the depiction of juju, witchcraft and the tribulations of modern life as a result of shadowy machinations, Regina Mbey a consumer of Nollywood movies said, “I feel conveniently entertained when I watch Nigerian movies. I can connect to the stories and walk in the shadows of the characters.” Nigerian producer Kunle Afolayan however admits, “The volume won’t matter until we can connect with better content and profits.”
“Nollywood’s popularity across Africa and the diaspora certainly demonstrates the capacity of the films to travel,” said Nigerian film producer and financier Yewande Sadiku. While the about $4 billion industry continues to shape the lives of Africans, in the words of Veteran Actor Olu Jacobs “…If you believe in something, work hard and don’t give up on it, and you will be amazed at the impact.”