Meet Africa's ‘Nollywood’ (Nigeria) The second
largest movie industry in the world
In 1992, in Nigeria, electronics salesman Kenneth Nnebue shot a
straight-to-video movie in one month, on a budget of just $12,000.
Living in Bondage sold more than a million copies, mostly by street
vendors, and Nollywood – Nigeria’s movie industry – was born.
By 2009, Nollywood had surpassed Hollywood as the world’s
second largest movie industry by volume, right behind India’s
Bollywood. And in 2014, the Nigerian government released data
for the first time showing Nollywood is a $3.3 billion sector, with
1844 movies produced in 2013 alone. Earlier this year, Nollywood
Producer Kunle Afolyan reached an exclusive Netflix distribution
arrangement for his latest film, October 1. This adds to the 10
Nollywood related titles already on Netflix and the U.S. media
company’s recent $12 million movie rights purchase of Nigerian
novel Beasts of No Nation, to star Idris Elba.
And many observers believe that the global reach of African films could take off, led by video on demand
(VOD) platforms and productions of Nigeria — the continent’s largest economy and most populous nation.
“Nollywood’s popularity across Africa and the diaspora certainly demonstrates the capacity of the films to
travel,” said Nigerian film producer and financier Yewande Sadiku.
African digital content startups and the entry of subscription-based video on demand are trying to change
this equation. With financial backing of $25 million from firms such as New York’s Tiger Global and
Sweden’s , iROKO Partners licenses and streams Nollywood content to global subscribers, who pay $1.50
a month. “The focus is to take this popular movie industry, digitize it, and put the right framework around it
to capture the proper value,” founder Jason Njoku said of Nollywood and iROKO’s platform.
“The revenue is already there, it’s just scattered. If
stakeholders can invest in Nollywood and make back
profits, it will lead to larger budgets and better quality
Competition in African digital entertainment is heating
up. In 2014, Africa Magic, a Naspers owned South
African satellite TV channel, announced its $8 a month
Africa Magic Go VOD package. Then there’s Kenyan
startup Buni.tv’s new Buni+, a $5 a month streaming
movie service. Each has a heavy focus on consumers of
Nigerian content. Meanwhile, YouTube is also becoming
a competitor. Taking a cue from U.S. disruptors like
Netflix, Africa’s digital film platforms are already creating
proprietary programming. iROKOTV is now directing its
own productions through its ROK Studios. So too is
Nairobi based Buni.tv, which launched Ogas at The Top,
a Nigerian version of its popular political satire XYZ
Show. In April Nigerian media outlet TechCabal reported
a distribution partnership between IROKOTV and Netflix.
Reliable Internet–a baseline for streaming VOD–is still a problem in African countries, however. IROKO
has set its developers to creating smaller Nollywood movie files and more direct download options.
Another Nigerian startup, SOLO, is bridging the device and broadband gap by offering entry level
smartphones (around $75) and its View App that allows customers to buy and rent digital content at
download hotspots throughout the country.
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