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Nollywood has talent!

Ismail Radwan's picture

Lights, camera, action!  It’s a clichéd phrase that we more often associate with the movie business and not the World Bank.  In the past the Bank has financed schools, hospitals, power stations but now we are looking for new areas to finance.  So why the movie business?  Nigeria’s movie industry, euphemistically known as “Nollywood” is the world’s most prolific, churning out more than 40 full-length feature films every week. It employs about 500,000 people directly and perhaps double that indirectly. And yet there is tremendous scope for growth. 

Osuofia in London, 2003Most of the movies are low budget affairs. Want to make a movie in Naija – it only takes $25,000 and a couple of days with local producers using gorilla film-making techniques.  They make low budget movies filmed on site in cheap locations (hotel rooms and offices), with improvised sound and light. The result, sometimes grainy, sometimes inaudible, ham acting at its best – but for Nollywood fans it is totally watchable, gripping action that they can relate to. African stories for an African audience. 

Young people make the movies and sound tracks and young people consume the product. So for a government focused on creating jobs for young people (since the events in North Africa doubly focused) it’s worth looking into what can be done to support the industry. After studying the entertainment industry for a while and holding a number of stakeholder consultations around the country, we found that the major obstacles to future growth included; rampant piracy, no venture capital, lack of a distribution and marketing network, lack of film studios and poor production techniques. We put together a program of support to address these issues within the Growth and Employment in States (GEMS) project.

We knew that we’d have to find another way of communicating with our stakeholders – film stars, directors, producers, script writers and musicians. They would not be interested in lengthy Bank reports. And so we reached out on Facebook and provided a platform for them to come together and share ideas and initiatives to take the industry forward.

As with all new ideas there was lots of resistance both inside and outside the Bank. Some thought we wanted to get involved in the content, making films about development. Others were worried that the Bank would somehow be compromised by supporting porn. We continued explaining that Nollywood does not produce such material and that we would not get involved on the creative side. The entertainment industry should be viewed just like any other industry. It is a place to work (especially for young people), a place to add value, a tool to promote exports. In the end, no one can argue with the need to create more jobs for young unemployed Africans, to capture the value of African cultural heritage and present a positive image of the continent around the world. Nollywood has talent and we are helping to take it to the next level.

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on
I very much appreciate the fact that Nollywood has grown despite all criticisms to where it is today. True, we need to upgrade our content and make it standard but wont that affect the size of the industry? Nigerian films (which I don't get to watch at all) are made for the average African who cannot afford the cost or luxury of the typical american properly packaged high budget film. I guess with all the polishing comes additional costs which will betray the initial strength of the sector. Nollywood grew on its own using indigenous skill and talent to get to its present status. I guess a little brushing here and there will help but please try and appreciate where these people have come from and where they are right now. I don't know how much input they have into the design of GEMS but it might be something worth looking into at this stage. Every change will face resistance naturally.

Submitted by I Radwan on
Anonymous - thanks very much for your thoughts. You are quite right. Nollywood grew to where it is today without any support from anyone and we certainly don't want to upset that growth. However, there are things that can be done to improve the sector and grow it even further. The reason we say that is because this is what the stakeholders tell us. We have spent the last 2 or 3 years going around the country listening to the stakeholders in Abuja, Kano, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Benin City and Enugu. For those that we could not reach physically we established our facebook page to elicit their ideas and support. And just because we are starting the implementation does not mean that we are going to stop the dialogue quite the opposite. I am in Lagos right now to launch our book on the topic and here from the stakeholders once again. If you get this message in time and you are in Lagos - please join us at the Radisson Hotel in Lagos on Monday 29th August 2011 and let your views be known. We are all ears!!

Submitted by Nentawe Gomiyar on
Interesting that the World Bank is interested to finance film projects in Nigeria, most especially creating job opportunities for young people., I must commend the World Bank for taking such initiative, the movie industry in Nigeria needs to move past beyond the level that it is now, Nollywood having talent is not enough, there is a need to transform the industry from its present state to a level that it can compete at the global level with films from Hollywood and Bollywood. It will be good for the World Bank to work with the National Film Institute and also the National Copyright Commission and other film practitioners to fashion out a workable and realistic Nollywood Transformation/development strategic framework. That will focus on capacity building for practitioners, access to funding for productions, film production exchange programmes, Film festivals development/expansion and also access to markets and dealing with piracy. With these things in place we are on our way to developing the most viable film industry in the world.

Submitted by Sonubi Oluwaseun on

This is a welcome development as the potentials of the industry is quite limitless, at its best it'd compete pretty well with Hollywood. I'm Nigerian and truly proud of what's they've done with such enormous and conspicuous limitations. It's about time the 'erstwhile' Bretton Woods institutions did something for Africa without it indirectly benefiting our erstwhile colonial overlords.

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