Thousands of ambitious actors travel to Lagos, Enugu, Abuja, and Kaduna each year in the hope of landing the next big Nollywood role. However, they do help local businesses thrive even though the majority of them never succeed.

The sites where movies are filmed are significantly impacted by the filming process. Crews bring in a substantial stream of income for local businesses as they arrive at a location. Through expenditures on lodging, transportation, equipment, local labor, fees, and taxes, filming directly contributes to the economy of a location.

Nollywood, the tenacious and ubiquitous film industry of Nigeria, has grown into a global force with a huge following in Africa and among the diaspora of Africans. With a predicted value of $6.4 billion in 2021, it will rank second in the world in terms of the number of films produced annually, value, income, and popularity. Every year, Nigeria makes over 2,500 films.

Nigerian movies are equally well-liked abroad as they are at home, according to a 2010 Economist article. The arrival of a cargo of DVDs from Lagos causes the Ivorian rebels fighting in the forest to cease. Mothers in Zambia claim that their kids have picked up Nigerian television accents.

According to a recent study by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nollywood produced 635 movies in Q2 21 as opposed to 416 in Q1 21, representing growth of 53.9% q/q and 1.4% y/y.

Nigeria’s media and entertainment sector is one of the world’s fastest-growing creative businesses, according to PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook for 2020–2024. With a projected annual growth rate of 8.6% and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.3% from 2018 to 2023, it has the potential to become the nation’s largest export.

According to Steve Omanufeme in a 2016 International Monetary Fund (IMF) assessment, the value of Nollywood to the Nigerian economy “was only fully understood when the Nigerian GDP was rebased in 2014.”

The industries included in the rebasing process were arts, entertainment, and recreation, financial institutions and insurance, real estate, professional, scientific, and technical services, administrative and support services, public administration, education, human health, and social services, as well as other services, all of which were not previously included in GDP at all. Nollywood, the information technology sector, the music business, internet sales, and telecommunications were among the areas that were included for the first time, according to the report. The rebasing process caused Nigeria’s GDP in 2013 to increase from an earlier estimate of $285.5 billion to $510 billion.

According to PwC, Nigeria’s film industry would generate more than $1 billion in export revenue by 2021, contributing 2.3% of the country’s GDP and roughly 239 billion naira ($660 million). The movie and music recording industries generated more money than expected—$806 million more than expected—contributing roughly 730 billion naira ($1.8 billion) to the national GDP.

To begin with

The 1992 premiere of the suspenseful thriller Living in Bondage, which was written by Kenneth Nnebue and Okechukwu Ogunjiofor and was directed by Chris Rapu, marked the beginning of Nollywood’s slow infiltration into the consciousness of viewers.

The collaboration of creativity and the market was the catalyst for innovation, the start of a major revolution in filmmaking, and a pivotal moment for the Nigerian film industry.

Lacking financing, Okechukwu Ogunjiofor, a talented artist, teamed together with Kenneth Nnebue, a businessman, who brought in VHS tapes from Taiwan, to produce his magnificent story. Although using VHS camcorders to make movies was a less sophisticated format than what was available in Hollywood, it was a different approach that would alter Nigerian cinema.

According to Gbenga Bada, a writer for the Pulse, the film’s direct-to-video release was crucial to its success and it quickly developed into the route of distribution that transformed the Nigerian film industry into one with a significant production.

The memory of Living in Bondage has kept the business alive since its publication 29 years ago.

According to Omanufeme, the release of Living in Bondage ignited the domestic video industry’s long-overdue resurgence. In reality, he continued, “pioneering filmmakers like Hubert Ogunde, Jab Adu, Ola Balogun, Moses Olaiya (Baba Sala), and Eddie Ugboma put in years of arduous work before the Nnebue experiment. These individuals are regarded by the industry as the first generation of Nigerian filmmakers.

According to Innocent Uwah, the Nigerian film industry is a self-help business that has survived due to the difficulties of its practitioners rather than because of the national structures.

According to Ruth Okediji, a law professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, Nollywood “formed itself, policed itself and emerged as a global force to be reckoned with” because of the traditional culture of creation.

Nollywood flourished and expanded despite Nigeria’s governments and its famous bureaucratic inefficiency. Other countries enact rules to foster inventiveness. Here we have a country that nearly against itself can’t stop itself,” added Okedeji.

In the past, Nigeria’s government has made an effort to capitalize on Nollywood’s popularity. In order to support what he dubbed Nigeria’s “shining light,” President Goodluck Jonathan promised $200 million in government loans for the film sector in 2010. In the same year, as part of its Growth and Employment in States (GEMS) Project, the World Bank recognized Nollywood as a budding sector with enormous potential and provided a $20 million grant to support Nollywood’s expansion. Additionally, in March 2013, President Jonathan approved the launch of “Project ACT – Nollywood,” a $17–18 million grant for the film industry that is meant to support the development of production skills and training in filmmaking.

Nollywood’s past and present

The resiliency of Nigeria’s film industry has culminated in a change from “Old Nollywood to the New Nollywood,” as described by filmmaker and lecturer Saddik Tafawa-Balewa at American University of Nigeria. According to Tafawa-Balewa, the old Nollywood was distinguished by poor technical quality, low production costs of between $25,000–$50,000, and sales of between 100,000 and 200,000 copies.

In a report for the United States International Trade Commission, Erick Oh stated that the structure of Old Nollywood advantages a cartel of Nigerian film marketers who have long monopolized the funding, production, and distribution of movies in Nigeria. They own networks of stores and other outlets, and they have a big say in what movies are produced and distributed. Renting and selling home video content account for practically all revenues, which has mostly benefited advertisers. The early development of intricate global piracy networks was a result of this ad hoc structure. Contrarily, it was because of these illegal trade networks that Nollywood movies initially caught the attention of overseas viewers and eventually developed a global following.

Old Nollywood, according to John McCall, is not capitalist. Film transactions took place in open-air markets, and the absence of record-keeping prevented the sector from formally creating capital, which is a key component of capitalism.

Consumer expectations have evolved as Nollywood has grown, and traditional pricing, delivery, and practice models are also changing. Customers are now wanting more of the new and rejecting the old-school aesthetic thanks to the emergence of unorthodox movie distribution systems like those provided by Netflix and the Apple Store.

Social media and digital streaming services have significantly altered traditional media. As a result, buyers are more sophisticated because they can now choose from a huge range of information.

According to Saddik Tafawa-Balewa, new Nollywood is distinguished by new trends in terms of content and quality and has a global market to showcase itself. It has also attracted larger investments from international film production companies and streaming services, generated significantly more revenue than old Nollywood. It reflects a developing industry.

According to him, the relationship “is completely commercial, and the big players globally, whether it is Netflix, Amazon, or Sky, have positioned themselves extremely well. They decide how much they can afford to pay you, and frequently, the price they pay for content produced in Nigeria is lower than the price they pay for content produced elsewhere in the world.

“It is quite similar to how things were when everything first began, when Nigerian filmmakers flocked to South Africa and the South Africans were fostering Nigerians. Africa Magic honed our filmmakers and gave our stuff away for free. As a result, history is sort of repeating itself.

Mr. Tafawa-Balewa also thinks that for Nigerian filmmakers to be able to control the content of their work and profit from it, Nollywood needs to collaborate with other creatives to create platforms that domesticate the streaming of Nigerian movies. “We must develop our platforms so that we can stream our stuff. We can only maximize and profit in this way.

Nevertheless, Nollywood’s future is incredibly bright.

Nollywood is the second-largest employer in Nigeria after agriculture, despite receiving minimal government assistance and operating in an unregulated environment. Together with the high rate of employment creation, the industry and its influence add nearly $1 billion USD to Nigeria’s GDP each year.

The industry took off, flourished, and is currently growing the economy without interference or formality. And with revenues expected to increase over time, Nollywood will continue to provide brilliant profits and roles for people and companies in Nigeria.