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Africa Day 2021: Celebrating movie industry’s growth

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Africa Day is an official day set aside by the African Union to mark African Unity. The day, which falls on May 25 annually, is an opportunity to appreciate and celebrate the continent’s diverse history and heritage while acknowledging its cultural and economic potential.

As the theme of this year’s celebration is “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”, The PUNCH highlights the growth of the African movie industry over the years.

 

Nollywood

Nigeria’s movie industry is popularly known as Nollywood, and according to the 2021 Statista report, the industry represents the most valuable indigenous cinematography production in the West African region.

The report reads in part, “The film industry in West Africa is booming, with Nigerian productions being the largest in the region and all of Africa. In terms of revenue, Nigeria generates the largest share of box office revenue in anglophone West Africa. The high percentage is directly related to the large population of Nigeria (over 200 million people), compared to the smaller populations of Liberia and Ghana.

“Hollywood movies hold most of the revenue across Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria. Nevertheless, Nollywood movies represent the second most valuable cinematography productions in this region.”

Nollywood has grown over the years from an era of VHS cassette players in the early ‘90s to streaming services in recent years.

In modern times, business opportunities in Nollywood include the opening of cinemas, the use of streaming services such as YouTube, Netflix, Iroko TV, among others, training and capacity building for cinematography, scriptwriting and directing, and movie production equipment.

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The Nigerian government, between 2011 and 2017, donated a cumulative grant of $1.26m to the creative industry.

According to The International Trade Administration, Nollywood employs about a million people and generates over $7bn for the economy, accounting for 1.4 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

The Statista report stated that Nollywood produces around 2,500 films a year, with a projection of $22m by 2021 in total cinema revenue, while total music revenue is estimated to rise at 13.4 per cent to $73m.

In 2020, Nollywood’s total box office revenue stood at N2bn, accounting for 99 per cent of the total N2.1bn revenue generated in the whole of West Africa.

In recognition of the growth of the Nollywood industry, popular streaming platform, Netflix, introduced its Nigerian branch — Netflix Naija — in February 2020.

Netflix, via its Twitter handle, stated that the decision was in a bid to showcase its increased investment in the Nigerian film industry.

Netflix’s presence means increased visibility for African titles and, most importantly, the reduced adverse impact of movie piracy in Nigeria.

Since its arrival in 2020, Netflix has partnered with production companies like Nemsia Studios, Trino Motion Pictures, Ebony Life and Ink Blot to begin utilising the $15bn fund allocated to producing original African stories.

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The first Netflix original movie was Genevieve Nnaji’s Lion Heart, which was produced in 2018.

In 2020, a popular media mogul and owner of Ebony Life Films, Mo Abudu, announced a multi-title deal with Netflix, which birthed the movie Olòtūré.

Olòtūré, which was directed by Kenneth Gyang, aired in October 2020 and sat on Netflix’s most-watched list within days of its release.

Following its success, other Nigerian Netflix original movies such as Kunle Afolayan’s Citation and Faraday Okoro’s Nigerian Prince followed.

More so, Afolayan announced a three-title partnership with Netflix in March 2021 to feature films that span across historical drama, folklore fantasy and character drama genres.

 

South Africa

In 2017, a total of 222 films were released in South Africa, with 23 of those films originating from the nation.

Statista predicts that Box office revenue in South Africa will grow from just over 1.3 billion Rands in 2018 to 1.46 billion South African Rands in 2023.

In South Africa, Netflix is also showcasing the diversity of creatives in Africa. The series, Blood and Water, premiered in 2020 and sat on the worldwide most-watched list upon its release.

Earlier this year, My Octopus Teacher earned the ‘Best Documentary Feature’ at the 2021 Academy Awards, earning the Nation increased recognition for quality storytelling.

The film, which was directed by Pippa Erlich and James Reed, is a Netflix production that highlights its strengths across all genres of well-made films and life-affirming stories.

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Kenya

Kenya, the East African suburban nation with a population of more than 54 million people, has had a vibrant film industry for decades, making it an important location for filmmaking.

From the comedy romance, ‘Disconnect’, featuring local talents like Brenda Wairimu and Nick Mutuma, to ‘Sincerely Daisy’, a coming of age story about a young aspiring actress, the Kenyan film industry has showcased the country’s beaches, exciting capital, and quirkiness of its locals through indigenous stories that are relatable and produced by top-notch creatives that churn out quality films.

Although the Africa movie industry does not earn as much in comparison to international counterparts such as Hollywood and Bollywood, the progress thus far is a testament to the tenacity of African creatives who have developed the industry in the midst of copious limitations, especially lack of technology, funding and structure.

In 2020, the African Export-Import Bank announced a $500m credit facility to support African cultural and creative products over the next two years.

Additionally, the Central Bank of Nigeria, in partnership with the Banker’s Committee, announced a N22.9bn fund for entrepreneurs and investors in the creative and IT sectors in May 2019.

With the ever-improving nature of the African film industry and the increase in calibre content available for viewing, Africa Day can be better celebrated by watching African movies and encouraging indigenous producers.

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