Magazine article New African

Nollywood Pulls in the Dollars

Magazine article New African

Nollywood Pulls in the Dollars

Article excerpt

Besides football, literary icons like Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka and of course, the late musical megastar Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, there is no question that Nigerian movies have become one of the country's top cultural exports, bringing in $250m per annum. Directly and indirectly, the industry employs 100,000 people, having grown from nothing 13 years ago Osasu Obayiuwana provides this illustrated report from Nigeria, with pictures of some of Nollywood's superstars.

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During a visit to the South American country of Belize, whilst the managing director of the World Bank, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala would have assumed that anyone coming up to her was intending to engage her on the global economic climate and its effect on growth in the developing world.

But no. "People stopped me on the street and said, 'Are you Nigerian? We love your movies'," Okonjo-Iweala revealed recently.

With a reputed turnover of 40 film productions a week and reported sales of $250m per annum, the Nigerian film industry, with very little encouragement from the government, has become one of the country's main non-oil foreign exchange earners.

"They employ our young people, so it is perfect. The appeal is worldwide. Where you have people of African descent they love this stuff," Okonjo-Iweala observed. "The thing is not [for the government] to interfere - it has grown on its own. To help it improve, two things are needed. improvement in quality - that takes building capacity and having access to finance. Second is intellectual property. We need to regulate this, because part of the problem is they are not realising value because things are copied (pirated)."

Now that Okonjo-Iweala has returned to Nigeria, at the behest of President Goodluck Jonathan, to again take up the job of finance minister (which she also held under President Olusegun Obasanjo), the creative industry expects to get real and meaningful support from her office. Okonjo-Iweala is also in full charge of the economic management team, which has caused many to give her the unofficial title of "Prime Minister".

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Just before the 2011 presidential election, President Jonathan pledged a $150m loan fund for the use of people in the "creative industry", which is to be managed by the Bank of Industry (BOI).

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Whilst the money has been released to the BOI, for disbursement to recipients that meet its qualifying guidelines, it remains to be seen whether it will be a lifeline for those in the industry, who have complained, with good reason, about the consistent lack of organised government support for the sector.

That lack of support is not stopping Jason Njoku from carving his own niche. He is the founder of "Nollywoodlove", an online entertainment company based in Lagos, making Nigerian cinema readily available on the internet.

Since December 2010, it has been buying up the rights to Nigerian movies and uploading them onto its dedicated YouTube channel.

"I was swept away with this wave of amazing content, which when I looked at ways to actually consume it, there weren't any - the legal distribution infrastructure just wasn't there, so I thought, let me just try it and add some value," Njoku told CNN.

Njoku's company now employs more than 40 people and the movies on its internet platform reportedly attract over 2.5 million views around the world each week. …

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