Nollywood moment: African film industries ‘could create 20m jobs’

UN study finds streaming services have increased demand for film productions from across the continent, but warns piracy and underinvestment hampering growth

Film industries in Africa could quadruple their revenue to $20bn (£15bn) and create an extra 20m jobs in creative industries, according to a UN report about cinema on the continent.

The booming film industry in Nigeria – Nollywood is the world’s second-largest film industry in terms of output – and Senegal were examples of African countries with defined business models and growing avenues for local film productions, which are increasingly sought after by television and streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+, said the report by the United Nation’s cultural body, Unesco.

Most creative industries in Africa were grossly underserved, in part due to the failure of policymakers and local authorities to protect and invest in audio-visual industries, and there was the potential to add 20m jobs to an estimated 5m across African countries, said the report.

Unesco’s director-general Audrey Azoulay said the report, which assessed the capacity and shortcomings of each country’s film and audio industries, “showcases the great potential of Africa’s audio-visual sector both in terms of creativity and growth”.

“We need to strengthen international cooperation to enable film-makers of all countries to express themselves and develop viable and competitive cultural and creative industries,” she said.

The report, published on Tuesday, was commissioned after a meeting of Africa’s culture ministers in 2019 and considered ways that largely low-income countries could boost growth in creative industries.

The findings and recommendations will be discussed at a meeting of key stakeholders in film and culture across Africa at the Pan-African Festival of Cinema and Television in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, later this month.

While countries across Africa were adopting a range of models for growing their film industries, from providing digital services to hosting festivals, most were struggling to attain sustainable growth, the report said.

Africa is by far the most underserved continent with regard to cinemas, with only one screen for every 787,402 people. In Nigeria, the number of cinemas has doubled since 2015, although locations remain scarce.

A significant concern was that much of the money generated by African film industries does not go back into local economies, the report said. Two-thirds of African countries acknowledged that more than half of proceeds were lost to illegal avenues such as piracy, said Ernesto Ottone, Unesco’s assistant director general for culture. “Creatives do not receive copyright payment in return for their work. There needs to be much stronger legislation,” he said.

But 30 of Africa’s 54 countries lacked national film commissions or recognised audio-visual institutions that can champion creatives and fair usage rules, the report said, making reforms hard to achieve.

“We are in a moment where if those countries don’t engage quickly with these challenges, they will keep losing film-makers, who flee to other countries like Nigeria and Senegal,” Ottone said.

Despite their size and low income, Mauritius and Cape Verde have seen relative success, driven by private-sector support and banks offering credit for short films and documentaries. Cape Verde’s industry had “made a very big jump” in the past five years, he said.

Only 19 African countries offer any kind of financial support to film-makers, most often in the form of small grants or subsidies. For many in Nigeria’s film industry, the stunning rise of Nollywood – a near-$1bn industry producing about 2,500 films each year – has come largely without significant support from successive governments.

In Ivory Coast and Senegal, significant investments by international television corporations such as Canal+ had boosted locally produced television productions, but in many countries investment was lacking. While the coronavirus pandemic had severely hit television advertising and cinema industries, the crisis had also spurred exciting change, the report added.

“In countries like Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Senegal, new generations of directors can now live off the income generated online by their work,” the report said, because digital cinematographic equipment had become more affordable. Platforms like YouTube, Netflix and local mobile video services offer new ways of distributing and monetising live content.

These changes, it said, had spurred “the emergence of a new economy for African content creators, who are now doing without traditional players”.

Contributor

Emmanuel Akinwotu, west Africa correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Sweet as honey: the African killer bees providing a living in Liberia | Lorraine Mallinder
A corps of master beekeepers is leading a drive to produce honey for the growing domestic market, offering subsistence farmers a new livelihood

Lorraine Mallinder

04, Dec, 2017 @5:00 AM

Article image
Netflix and Unesco search for African film-makers to ‘reimagine’ folktales
Competition opens to find six young creators in sub-Saharan Africa who will be funded to produce movies for 2022

Lizzy Davies

14, Oct, 2021 @6:01 AM

Article image
Africa facing shortfall of 50 million jobs by 2040, report says
Unemployment crisis will ravage the continent if it doesn’t opt for market-based development, according to report by Tony Blair’s Institute

Karen McVeigh

27, Jun, 2017 @6:00 AM

Article image
Life in Lagos imitates art as squatters evicted for biennial exhibition
Exhibition theme, Living on the Edge, takes on new meaning as artists and squatters at disused railway shed turfed out by state-owned railway company

Ruth Maclean in Lagos

26, Oct, 2017 @1:08 PM

Boko Haram gets Nollywood treatment as Nigerian films imitate life
Industry insiders say there is a growing trend for Nigerian films that take on controversial topics in current affairs

Afua Hirsch, west Africa correspondent

04, Jul, 2013 @3:58 PM

Article image
Nollywood's new generation in the spotlight at Film Africa in London
Gender equality, postnatal depression and transatlantic migration are all tackled in quest for international audiences

Kate Hodal

02, Nov, 2020 @7:15 AM

Article image
Canned in Kenya, set for Cannes: Rafiki falls foul of Nairobi film censors | Hannah Summers
Wanuri Kahiu’s drama banned for ‘promoting lesbianism’ despite becoming first Kenyan film to earn showing at Cannes

Hannah Summers

27, Apr, 2018 @3:36 PM

Article image
Brilliance overtakes beauty as Ms Geek Africa spotlights tech genius | Lauren Gambino
Long noted for its progressive stance on equality, Rwanda is the birthplace of a contest that champions female tech wizards

Lauren Gambino in Kigali

28, May, 2018 @6:00 AM

Article image
UK not doing enough for conflict-stricken northern Nigeria, MPs warn
Development committee says UK should fight corruption and improve education and employment prospects to tackle issues that led to rise of Boko Haram

Ruth Maclean in Dakar

27, Jul, 2016 @12:31 PM

Article image
Nigeria launches 'biggest job creation scheme' in its history after long delay
Initiative aimed at shielding young people from economic impact of Covid-19 will provide 750,000 paid placements

Emmanuel Akinwotu, west Africa correspondent

14, Jan, 2021 @7:15 AM