Nigerian Entertainment Conference Highlights Nollywood’s Economic Strength

Industry leaders discuss important topics at the 2015 Nigerian Entertainment Conference.

Entertainment industry giants of every discipline are coming together for the fourth annual Nigerian Entertainment Conference (NEC) in Lagos on April 20. The theme: “Entertainment industry as last hope for Africa’s largest economy.”

Nigeria’s film industry has rapidly grown into a strong economic force, comprising 1.4 percent of Nigeria’s GDP in 2013. This year’s conference will bring together the country’s best creative and entrepreneurial minds to discuss the state of the industry, challenges it faces, and opportunities for growth.

“The conference is where the inner workings of the industry are fine-tuned and planning for the future of the industry is done,” shared Anuoluwapo Komolafe, public relations executive for the conference. “Practitioners who attend the conference receive a full picture of where the industry is and where they are within the industry. This helps them in making better-informed artistic and business decisions.”

The conference features a star studded schedule including host and comedian, Tee A, popstar and businessman, D’Banj, and actress and producer, Funke Akindele.

“It’s my pleasure to host the conference for the 4th time in a row,” shared Tee A in an interview with Nigerian Entertainment Today. “It’s more of a call to duty for me. Our collective duty of continuous contributions to the development of our very promising entertainment industry.”

The conference will also include notable entrepreneurs within the industry such as John Ugbe, managing director of Multichoice Nigeria, Banky W, CEO of EME records, and Olatunde Falase, CEO of Braincraft Limited.

“Our music, speakers, and panelists will drive the conversation using personal case studies, work experiences, and show how the music scene can be harnessed to add value in a non-oil economy,” Ayeni Akindele, founder and chairman of the conference, said in an interview with Pulse.ng.

This potential to develop a strong, non-oil based economy has lots of people interested in Nigeria’s entertainment industry.

“For decades, Nigeria has thought of itself as a country whose main economic resource is oil,” said Komolafe. “It is against this backdrop that the Nigerian entertainment industry can serve as a beacon of hope.”

The Nigerian film industry has ballooned into a $3 billion industry, according to Fortune. In a study conducted by the United States International Trade Commission (USITC), Erick Oh found that Nigeria produces an average of 50 movies each week, making it bigger than Hollywood by volume, second only to Bollywood.

Most of these movies are produced in a month or less with a budget of $25,000 to $70,000 and the majority of these films are shot using handheld camcorders. This makes it significantly easier for aspiring filmmakers to enter the market, especially when compared to other markets such as Hollywood where top-end movies average around $250 million.

Since the success of Living in Bondage in 1992, the Nigerian film industry has relied primarily on a direct-to-video distribution system. Though box-office sales are persistently low, this alternate revenue stream allows films to be profitable within two to three weeks of release.

According to the Oxford Business Group, Nigeria’s film industry currently employs an estimated one million people, making it the second largest source of employment after agriculture.

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However, the industry is entrenched in a difficult anti-piracy war.

Many filmmakers claim that within hours of a film’s release, bootleg copies are available at a fraction of the retail price. Nigerian films are popular around the world, but nearly all exports are pirated copies. The Nigerian Copyright Commission estimates that this piracy brings in around $1 billion annually.

The primary reason for this rampant piracy is the informal nature of the Nigerian film industry. According to USITC, the industry primarily relies on oral agreements between filmmakers, producers, and marketers. This often results in disputed claims over intellectual property rights, which, without documentation, must be settled outside of court.

This has also made it difficult for the industry to expand into other countries. In most foreign markets, establishing a chain of title is a requirement for any film’s distribution.

A number of organizations have begun working to limit piracy and regulate the industry.

In 2010, the World Bank invested $20 million into the Nigerian film industry as part of the Growth and Employment in States Project. The investment is intended to support industry growth and increase employment in one of Nigeria’s leading non-oil sectors.

The Nigerian government has also stepped in. In 2013, President Goodluck Johnathan awarded the industry an $18 million grant for training and distribution costs. The Nigerian Copyright Commission has also increased efforts to shut down illegal DVD printing presses and prosecute pirates. They have also began distributing nationwide public service ads to educate the public about the economic dangers of piracy and discourage them from purchasing pirated copies of films.

In the digital world, IROKOtv has been incredibly successful in curbing online piracy. With an $8 million investment from Tiger Global Management, Jason Njoku launched IROKOtv at the end of 2011. Similar to Netflix, this service makes thousands of Nigerian movies and television shows available to stream or download for only $5 a month. IROKOtv boasts a global audience of 6 million in 178 different countries.

Komolafe expressed deep optimism about the future of the industry. “The culture industry, of which entertainment takes up the biggest space, is the only potential salvation for Nigeria’s stagnating economy and this is why this year’s conference has that theme,” she said. “The second function of the entertainment industry in turning around Nigeria’s economic fortunes is in creating and disseminating the idea that economic success can arise from creativity and not oil, government patronage, family privilege or illegal activities.

“The potential impact of the industry on Nigeria’s economy is almost limitless. The opportunities are limitless if only our collective mind is open to the possibilities presented by entertainment.”

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