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.
Most 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.