Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, is the acclaimed second largest movie industry in the world following India’s Bollywood. Year in year out, Nollywood churns out over 2,000 movies in English and in indigenous languages, including Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa.
While the Nigerian film industry earned its recognition as one of the largest, it still has a long way to go before it can be regarded as a force to reckon with. Within Nigeria and Africa, Nollywood movies dominate television screens due to the relatable experiences depicted about the Nigerians way of life, including dressing, greetings, speech and expression, food, ceremonies and other important aspects of their culture.
Nollywood also happens to be one of the largest employers of labour in Nigeria, following agriculture rather closely. Typically, the production of a movie in Nigeria requires the services of a large number of people, which makes the industry one with an unusually high rate of employment.
The entertainment sector, including the movie industry, in Nigeria has been rated as one of the means of generating revenue for the economy. As at the end of 2013, Nollywood had a revenue of $11bn with the production budget of between $250,000 and $750,000 and production periods of between three and six months.
In 2016, it accounted for N239bn of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product. In 2017, it was up to N4.3bn and projected to hit N6.4bn in 2022.
Apart from the economic prospects of Nollywood, another subject of debate has been whether Nollywood can serve ‘infotainment’ purposes. While entertaining the audience through its productions, can Nollywood movies also serve to inform those watching them on significant issues, be it local or international?
A lot of research has been conducted to evaluate how Nollywood can propel social change in Nigeria, while informing the audience on such significant issues. One of such researchers is a collaboration by Princeton University, University of California, Los Angeles and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where they commissioned a feature film to assess local habits on reporting corruption.
The movie distributor, iROKOtv, was assigned the task of producing Water of Gold starring Yemi Blaq, Mike Ezuruonye, Clem Ohameze and other Nollywood stars. The plot of the movie detailed the activities of corrupt government officials in the oil-rich Niger Delta and showed actors playing the role of activists, and encouraging people to report corrupt practices through a conspicuously advertised SMS short code. The 31,000 copies of the movie were distributed in four states within the Niger Delta region – Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers – where the research focused on.
After distribution, the researchers received text messages from 1,181 unique senders from over 120 communities in the Niger Delta discussing issues relating to corruption or the campaign. Also, 241 text messages were received from unique individuals who sent concrete evidence of corruption unambiguously naming an individual, institution or detailing an act.
The discovery of the researchers contradicted the expectation of Nigerian activists at the start of the research who opined that low participation would be recorded while taking cognisance of previous attempts that came about 140 reports in a full year.
The research was further extended beyond Nollywood to other parts of the entertainment industry like music. For the music industry, the research, which was to increase the use of modern contraceptive methods, was conducted by Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programme and the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative. For infotainment purposes, top Nigerian musicians were contracted to spread this awareness. Tiwa Savage and Paul Okoye, who became the ambassadors of NURHI, collaborated with other top Nigerian celebrities to promote family planning. From the music they produced, they enlightened, educated and encouraged people on the importance of planned parenthood and, as expected, the video got a lot of views online.
The effectiveness of the entertainment industry is also visible in the use of Nigerian celebrities to promote important information for financial institutions, brands as well as public and private firms. So, while entertaining their audience, the performance is also targeted at disseminating some important piece of information. Internationally, sensitive topics such as abortion and inter-racial marriages were first discussed as national issues in films and it is noticed that such films have been able to influence people and change their attitudes on these issues.
All this being said, Nollywood has viable prospects for infotainment, especially when considering the influence on the audience.
If Nollywood movies could be centred around prominent sensitive issues that concern the Nigerian or African audience such as women empowerment, Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, other gender-based diseases like fistula and gender-based violence, then this could engender more positive outcomes.