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Posts Tagged ‘Nigerian Export Promotion Council’

In early May, the World Bank committed $20 million to the Nigerian movie industry, with the intention that this new funding source would lead to improvements in Nollywood’s production, distribution, and marketing channels. The loan is part of the World Bank’s Growth and Employment in States (GEMS) project, which hopes to create 100,000 new jobs over five years across six growing domestic industries.

The substantial loan was announced at the Harnessing Nigerian Entertainment Industry for Formal Export workshop organized by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), in collaboration with the World Bank, the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), and the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC).

This development will help to fill a problematic financial gap in the industry. For years, many Nollywood filmmakers have bemoaned the challenge of producing quality work due to the capital-intensive nature of movie production and the concurrent dearth of funding. According to the United Nations Creative Economy Report 2008, the inherent potential of African culture markets is not being fully realized, in part owing to the lack of an “integrated, coordinated framework for African cultural policy.”  From the international development viewpoint, the World Bank’s elective involvement in the industry effectively acknowledges Nollywood as an instrument for the achievement of broader development goals, including job creation and poverty reduction.

Yet the $20 million loan has raised many valid questions since the World Bank did not clarify plans to distribute nor to implement the loan. The last formal loan to Nollywood ended disastrously in 2008 when Ecobank sued several Nollywood directors for default. Helping Nollywood to realize its potential will require coherent multidisciplinary policies, consistent policy implementation, and dedicated human resources, in addition to financial assistance.

As previously mentioned on this blog, this notable influx of capital also generates concerns about formalizing the industry. Will Nollywood’s entrepreneurial spirit be suppressed? Will a Nollywood film still be a Nollywood film if it is slickly produced and available on Netflix?

*Edited by Ms. Nackman

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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

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