As I’ve previously mentioned, the rise of Nollywood is so compelling because of its independence from traditional sources of financing, such as bank loans, government subsidies, and foreign aid. In less than two decades, the industry has grown from VHS tapes sold in Lagos electronic stalls to a US$200-300 million/year industry with global reach.
But there have been calls for the professionalization of the industry. Most profits in Nollywood accrue to the executive producer and marketer (often informal sector entrepreneurs), who control funding, production, and distribution. Some influential voices, like Dr. Hyginus Ekwuazi of the University of Ibadan, have called for sweeping industry reforms, including the establishment of a government or privately sponsored fund like the NEA, which could provide an alternative source of financing and encourage films that move beyond the recycled blockbuster themes which currently dominate the market. Ekwauzi has also called for the formation of a Motion Picture Practitioners’ Council to maintain ethical, commercial, and artistic standards, enforce relevant regulations, and provide technical support.
Nigeria’s economic development may rest on such a movement. The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) reports that Nigerian service export, valued at US$2.5 trillion, have largely been overlooked in favor of traditional goods export. Perhaps better practices in the film industry might help optimize overseas demand for the services of its actors, producers, and film makers.
So, some things to ponder: What are the implications for the “formalization” of Nollywood? Would the industry’s entrepreneurial spirit be suppressed? Or would the reforms revive the industry and deliver it into a new golden age?
*Special thanks to Max Gasner and Mr. Matlin