Using the Nollywood Model to Revive the Nigerian Economy

Using the Nollywood Model to Revive the Nigerian Economy

By Abdulkabir Olatunji

Nollywood, the Nigerian movie industry is now the second-largest in the world after India in terms of number of movies released per year and contributes a relatively small percentage to Nigeria’s GDP. It provides a template through which Nigeria can get out of its current serious economic difficulties and begin to fulfill its potential to be a global economic power.

We Nigerians have always had a flair for acting and drama with most cultures in our country having some sort of local drama. This got transferred into Cinema and later on to TV and eventually into the Home Video business where the industry really made its mark.

The movie Living in Bondage, released in 1992 is seen as the first production to successfully use the home video format of distribution to great success in Nigeria and Nollywood never stopped from there. For close to 3 decades Hundreds of thousands of movies have been produced with a large number not being comparable with their foreign counterparts in terms of quality. However, what they lack in quality they make-up for in terms of creativity. You have producers, directors, actors as well as other industry professionals transforming very little to get stories, that people from Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world can relate with. Stars have been born from the likes of Richard Mofe Damijo, Ramsey Nouah, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, the great couple Olu and Joke Silva, Pete Edochie, the list is very long.

Nollywood has created a brand new industry where there was almost none, it has made places like Nnamdi Azikwe street, 11 Ebinpejo lane and 1/3 Pound road Aba, world-famous. An IMF report from 2016 indicates Nollywood has created jobs for over a million Nigerians with many doing above average in terms of income and standard of living. The same report states: ‘the industry currently accounts for N 853.9 billion ($7.2 billion), or 1.42 percent of Nigeria’s GDP (see It has made Nigerian culture popular in Africa and beyond as well as being a foreign-exchange earner.

Perhaps, the greatest indication that the rest of Nigeria needs to learn from Nollywood is the record-breaking performance at the box-office of Nigerian films in recent years with The Wedding Party breaking several records in 2016 when Nigeria was in the grip of a strong recession with many industries suffering record decline. The movie according to Wikipedia has grossed N45,0000,000. so far. A feat unparalleled by any movie before it and none after it at the moment.

How could this happen? Very easy, a lot of local capacity already exists in Nollywood and there is less need to rely on foreign input be-it human or material. Also, there is a local demand and appetite for Nigerian films, so while Nigerians watch a lot of foreign movies and programmes, there is still a large demand for local movies, this needs to be reflected in other industries as well from oil and gas where we refine very little crude oil to our food where we import about $2 billion dollars worth of rice per year for example according to Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote.

We need to begin to produce a lot more of what we consume just like we do not exclusively watch foreign movies, we should not be too over-reliant on imports in other areas of our life. Nollywood has many challenges too like lack of proper structure for distribution which allows piracy to thrive unchecked and lack of government support and incentives to produce higher quality movies which are very expensive to make. Despite these challenges, Nollywood has thrived and by extension other sectors of the economy should find ways of growing and thriving.

We should continue to put pressure on government at all levels to encourage local production and consumption with policies, laws and strategies that work. However, like Nollywood has shown, it is a lot more important for us as Nigerians to look inwards and begin to derive and extract value from our immediate environment. This is the best way to ensure we have sustainable growth and development across different sectors of our economy and make Nigeria truly great as an economically healthy and viable country.


Abdulkabir Olatunji is the Head of Strategy at Jarus & JAN Internet Group and an Associate Member of the Nigerian Institute of Management (AMNIM). His interests include writing, blogging, all-things-tech and analysis of current affairs and sports. You can follow him on LinkedIn and on Twitter @maclatunji

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