By Ben Chiganze
NIGERIAN films commonly referred to as "African movies" took Zimbabwe and many other African countries by storm a few years ago and continue to be popular on the continent. There is no doubt that the African movies are the most popular channels on DStv channels and Wiztec. The majority of the films screened on Africa Magic are from Nigeria. So popular are Nigerian movies that African movies or actors are synonymous with Nigerian movies and actors respectively.
The Nigerian actors are so popular that they attract huge crowds wherever they visit in Africa.
The Nigerian film industry is commonly known as Nollywood. There are three major film industries in the world -- Bollywood in India, Nollywood in Nigeria and Hollywood in the United States.
Nollywood grew rapidly during the 1990s and 2000s to become the second biggest film industry in terms of the number of film productions a year ahead of United Sates and behind the Indian film industry.
Nigeria's film industry is the third largest in terms of revenue and estimated to be generating between US$250 million to US$500 million annually.
It churns out about 200 films every month. It is the largest creative economy in the sub-Sahara Africa.
Lessons from Nollywood
The following are some of the lessons which can be extracted from Nigerian film industry:
Power of entreprenuership.
Nollywood was started by entreprenuers without any government support, or any kind of international aid, or any type of formal sector intervention(http://nollywood.com.)
Its growth has been attributed to its huge local consumption of films in Nigeria coupled with the zeal of ambitious Nigerian film producers.
There is a common saying "Passion guarantees provisions". This is true in the case of Nollywood's journey to success.
The level of passion demonstrated by the producers forced the government to jump on the bandwagon of success.
Everybody wants to be associated with success so are the state actors. The following measures were put in place to support the film industry.
The Nigeria government gazetted a law that restricted foreign television content.
This legislation created space for Nigeria films in their various television stations.
In 2010 Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan pledged US$200 million loan to support finance for film projects to enable them to reach global mainstream theatres.
One of the beneficiaries of the loan Tony Abulu, a Nigerian film producer who was living in Harlem, got a US$250 000 loan.
On October 2, 2012, the Lagos State Government announced the "Nollywood upgrade project".
The purpose of this initiative is to support sustainable growth in the Nigerian film industry through training, capacity building and innovation in film financing and distribution.
This implies that if Zimbabwean film producers want to get anywhere, they must work tirelessly to build their industry and only then can they expect the Government to support it.
Currently, the Zimbabwe film industry is relying heavily on donor support with the exception of few documentaries that are funded by the Ministry of Information.
However, the donors support films whose themes are anchored on the "rights-based approach to development".
Films, which were produced with the support of donors, include "Neria", "Flame" and "Everyone's Child".
These films do not cut across all facets of life of Zimbabweans. They just focus on narrow issues of HIV/Aids, gender and human rights.
Producers of these films have control over the script. It can therefore be inferred that donors do not have the capacity to help us to develop our film industry.
The film industry in Nigeria has created a lot of celebrities such as Patience Ozokwo (Mama Azuka), Genevieve Nnaji, Rita Dominic, Osita Iheme, Chinedu Ikedieze, Ini Edo and many others.
During his presidential campaign, President Jonathan recruited Nollywood stars to campaign for him.
People in Nigeria easily identify and relate to their Nollywood heroes. By engaging these starts, President Goodluck wanted to ride on their success, fame and good standing.
Zimbabwean film celebrities are hardly known beyond our borders. So are our producers.
Unlike in African continent where economies thrived on extracting natural resources or charity, moviemaking is now one of Nigeria's largest sources of private sector employment. Posters and billboards all over Nigeria are advertising vacancies for "actors".
At first the Nigerian films were produced for the Nigerian market. With aggressive marketing their films penetrated the whole of Africa.
Now they are making inroads into America and Europe. Efforts are now underway to enlist bi-national producers so that their films will be more attractive on the global market.
As alluded to earlier on the Nigerian government is funding Nigeria producers even those who are living in Diaspora (such as Abulu who lives in Harlem) to produce films which meet high international standards.
Entrepreneurs set the tone for globalisation of their films with their ambitious productions and the government is fully behind this successful homegrown industry with affordable finance.
Various arms of government are working tirelessly to create an enabling environment for the production of films.
Foreign currency earner
The Nigerian film industry is generating a lot of foreign currency for Nigeria. Most countries in an Africa are net consumers of this irresistible import from Nigeria.
To a great extent Nigerians had been able to identify, utilise the talent at their disposal and create a multimillion-dollar industry out of their own resources.
The idea of matching the resources and the available skill set is sadly lacking in many African countries which are busy trying to copy products from Europe and American without the resources to produce them.
On the other extreme, the producers in Africa are waiting for donors to give them money to enable them to produce rights-based films which are very narrow in focus.
Fight against Piracy
Nigerian film industry has not been spared by piracy. Once films are produced on DVD pirates will illegally duplicate them and sell them on the black market. One way they are trying to tackle piracy is by producing "cinema only releases". (http://fundinghollywood.com).
Though piracy has resulted in leakage of revenue, it did not in any way distracted the Nigerian producers from producing more films.
This narrative clearly demonstrates that determined entrepreneurs could create viable industries without the support of neither donors nor foreign agencies.
This also demonstrated that government normally jump on the bandwagon of success.
Government always want to be associated with success. So for own Zimbabwe film industry to succeed it must rely on entrepreneurs and hope they achieve success as to warrant the Government to feel obligated to join in assisting the successful industry.
The writer is a managing consultant at CLC Training Intertanational.
allAfrica.com: Zimbabwe: Lessons From Nollywood
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