29 November 2018

Nigeria: Nollywood Still Leading the Way for Nigerian Entertainment Sector

It has been well over a year since PricewaterhouseCoopers Nigeria stated their vision for the Nigerian film industry of the future, predicting that the major industry would continue to expand both its domestic and global influence.

PwC's spotlight in July 2017 on the Nigerian film industry, widely known as Nollywood, identified strengths of the existing industry while noting areas for development over the next four years. Current indications are that Nollywood will continue to lead the way for the Nigerian entertainment industry, with music and gaming developing at a slower rate.

PwC's report acknowledges the past success of Nollywood, success that has made the film industry one of the most profitable and most renowned contributors to Nigerian economic development. In 2016, the Arts, Entertainment and Recreation sector contributed 2.3% (NGN 239 billion) to the country's GDP. This inspired the government to declare hopes that the film industry would be a sector to reach $1 billion of export revenue by 2020.

A look at the highest-grossing Nigerian films demonstrates that the industry is entering a period of unprecedented financial benefits. The Wedding Party and its sequel, released in 2016 and 2017 respectively, hold the top two spots, both with a domestic gross twice of the nearest contender. You have to go as far down as the 22nd highest-grossing Nigerian film to find one released before this decade, 2009's The Figurine.

Domestic success is one thing, but Nollywood needs to orchestrate global appeal if it is to reach that $1 billion export revenue. Things are progressing in the right direction; this is epitomised by streaming giant Netflix's involvement in Lionheart, directed by and starring Nollywood legend Genevieve Nnaji.

Netflix have purchased the worldwide rights for the film, a real fillip for Nollywood as Nigerian film begins to prioritize quality over quantity. This will bring Nollywood to a larger audience than ever before, which will have positive ramifications for the industry both domestically and globally. Other Nigerian entertainment industries are currently more limited in scope, although the casino and music industries both have the potential for growth.

The casino industry has witnessed a seismic shift in recent decades, with many physical casinos now making way for online casinos. Yet there are regulations that restrict the ability to access certain casinos. The operation of casinos across Africa is under constant legal scrutiny. In Zambia, 48 physical casinos were found to be conducting business illegally due to lack of licensing, while Nigerians are unable to own or operate online casinos within the country.

This does not restrict Nigerians, or citizens of other African countries, from accessing online casinos. Many international casinos allow Nigerians to sign up and play, but others do not accept members from certain countries due to account restrictions. These regulations ensure that the Nigerian casino industry cannot yet grow at the same pace as the movie industry.

Like Nollywood films reaching a global audience and Nigerian gamers signing up to foreign online casinos, Nigerian musicians are beginning to make a mark across and beyond the continent. This is largely due to collaborations with globally-renowned artists. In 2016, Wizkid linked up with Canadian star Drake for the huge hit 'One Dance', creating an unprecedented degree of worldwide popularity for the Nigerian star.

More recently, Nigerian singer Burna Boy teamed up with Lily Allen on 2018's 'Your Choice'. This growth in the music industry shares parallels with one of the actionable strategies from PwC for developing the film industry.

Working with global film producers, and subsequently achieving global recognition, is an effective way in generating more exports and attracting more overseas investors. The recent ascendancy of stars with Nigerian heritage in Hollywood is helping to shine a light on Nollywood. Chiwetel Ejiofor and John Boyega have both remained in touch with their Nigerian roots by co-starring in a Nollywood production in 2013, 'Half of a Yellow Sun'.

Boyega, in particular, has enjoyed a prodigious rise since, with the Star Wars actor stating an intention to lend his financial and promotional support to future Nollywood films. Nollywood is already renowned for its prolific rate of productions, but its expanding global audience will ensure that it makes the Nigerian entertainment sector a heavyweight on the world stage. This will pave the way for other Nigerian entertainment industries to follow in the footsteps of Nollywood.


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