Like Afrobeats, Like Nollywood: How International Competition Fuels Local Growth

On Saturday night, the African film industry had arguably its biggest award with Nollywood actors going home with majority of the awards.

It wasn’t a rare sight considering the Nigerian movie industry – Nollywood is the biggest on the continent in terms of reach and volume. 

According to a 2021 figure by the National Bureau of Statistics, the volume of movies released in Nigeria has increased by about 500% in the last four years. This clearly explains the reason the attraction to the African movies industry is on Nigeria.

The Nigerian industry has come some mile. From the days of the Village Headmaster, where actors toiled and sweat to make the industry rise to the battles against piracy, rewards have not always been forthcoming.

What the Nigerian industry never did was to give up. Everyone fought hard, never stopped creating and when affordable, engaged in collaborative works with the rest of the world. Quite clearly, the industry wasn’t lacking in talent and quality but it needed a great injection of cash, distribution and modernity.

The role of Multichoice in the African movie industry is exceptional, but Nigeria, being the epicentre of that industry has greatly benefitted from its gracious hands.

Since the company came to Nigeria about three decades ago, it has helped the local industry grow and has made local contents more reachable for Nigerians. But Nigeria would always need more to thrive competitively in the world. A country raring to improve its numbers, encourage more local talents to join the train and employ labour will need more funding to grow.

American Lens 1: The Netflix Flex

After Netflix expanded its reach to Nigeria in 2016, it has helped the promotion of local contents and was a major relief for moviemakers when the COVID-19 pandemic raged. The company hasn’t looked back ever since, despite criticisms from some quarters about how expensive it is for the average Nigerian.

The cost of internet is deemed expensive in Nigeria, and Over-the-top (OTT) streaming services require fast and good internet. Nigeria is currently ranked 43rd of 230 countries with affordable cost of mobile data. For the current economic atmosphere in the country, critics may have a point, but quality art has never been cheap, yet affordability is key to its reach.

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With some of the highest-grossing Nigerian movies also on Netflix, and after its success with Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart and Biyi Bandele-directed Fifty, the company has helped raise the bar of movie production in Nigeria. It has also helped blockbusters like King of Boys, and many other good local movies make their mark.

Its latest original, “Blood Sisters” further shows how far it has come with Nollywood, but the Nigerian industry makes too much to have lean options. Competition for local content has an automatic effect on creativity as every movie maker and actor wants to enjoy the benefits of expansion and growth of the industry.

Nollywood is capable of employing many Nigerian youths, the majority of whom are natural to arts, before anything. Expansion, especially in a digital age will always have a far reach.

The Afrobeats Growth – Boosted by The American Lens

The Nigerian music industry, fired on by the Afrobeats genre needed some real competition to be of global repute and for its massive talents to get shat they truly deserved.

Nigeria has never been short of talent. Generations have come and gone and the talent market has never dried.

Some of the way makers are still here, enjoying the benefits of their toil while some are dead or not in the conversations again.

Many have sacrificed their careers for this stage, but the big step would always need a global intervention – big, bold and bright.

As the big three – Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group pitched tent in Lagos, more artistes picked up their mics again, upped the ante, wrote and made songs. Nigeria’s three biggest artistes at the moment, Davido, Wizkid and Burnaboy are all signed to each of these groups.

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An opportunity to be in the spotlight and the allure of growth and financial returns mean many more youths are interested, but the best of the finest only get to become international properties.

These companies have helped promote Artiste & Repertoiring (A&R) and offer juicy deals in recording, licensing, funding and publishing these artistes.

The presence of the three big American record labels has also helped improve Nigerian labels like Mavins Records to fine-tune its talent base and sign young, fantastic musicians with very impressive ceilings.

Competition in art means the possibilities of growth are endless, and the ever-growing success of Afrobeats has visibly shown what can be achieved if more companies come to Nigeria. It’s a fast-growing market for a content the rest of the world is enjoying for its depth, range and richness.

Amazon Prime – An Amazing Time for Nollywood

With Netflix’s growth in Nigeria, it was expected at some point that a giant like Amazon will stretch its neck to see what’s happening and six years after the arrival of its major competitor in movie streaming, it has also identified the Nollywood as a growing game player in the global movies industry.

Other than the high volume of local content, Nigerian actors are reaching more heights globally, urging the necessity of knowing where it all began.

“When you look at the world, there are really five countries that have proven the ability to make great content that can really travel outside their home base. You have countries like the USA, UK, South Korea, [India] and Nigeria is right in there. Nigerian content is seen by a lot of people all over the world and it is a good opportunity to set up shop here,” James Farrell, Head of Local Originals for Amazon Studios told Forbes. 

After painstakingly observing the types of content that makes it through to the heart of Nigerians, Amazon’s observation period of three years has come to an end.

Film festivals like the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) became a ground to woo some of the best hands in Nollywood to pitch tents with Amazon. 

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“My team does however focus on what 10 or 20 titles can we add to the service to make sure it’s the best we have in Nigeria. So, if we are going to have a great service for Nigerians, it means we are going to have to make great content locally so we need to go out there and meet those folks who are creating that content, ” Farrell said.

One of Nigeria’s biggest names, Inkblot Studios has signed a three-year licensing deal with Amazon Prime for the worldwide distribution of its theatrical content from 2022.

Amazon has more than 150 million subscribers globally, with majority in the United States and Nigeria is seen as a major market to corner in Africa to improve its reach. The competition is full-blown.

Disney+, one of the biggest subscription-based movie platforms in the world has signed multi-year licensing deals with Ebonylife CEO, Mo Abudu and this further enriches the tussle for the Nigerian market. In addition to local companies like IrokoTV and the many more to come, there’s a huge opportunity for growth in Nollywood, as it’s set to take its place in the global discourse. 

The fear has always been the need to ensure nobody is taken for a ride but with the exposure gained by those in the industry today, there are many benefits ahead and it’s a reward for hard work, consistency and the doggedness to arts.

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