…continued from PART 3
You have to go to Alaba market in the chaotic metropolis of Lagos. It’s where the country’s film industry, Nollywood, was born over two decades ago—not that most of it’s stars would set foot there today. You can’t blame them. Getting to West Africa’s largest consumer electronic market requires a three-hour drive from the Victoria Island (unarguably the choicest place to live in Lagos State), where many of the stars and producers of locally made movies live; to the mainland (the glorified zone for low income earners).
Within the mainland, where you encounter numerous standstill traffics; on a potholed highway that varies between pavement, dust and dirt. Once at the perimeter, it’s another two hours’ walk into the DVD section, so visitors in a hurry must hitch life-threatening rides with boys on motorbikes, moving on top speed along the narrow market streets through a sea of bodies selling anything and everything: from extension cords to wall sockets, plantain chips, handkerchief, hard and soft core porn, cassava, washing machines …and black-market DVDs for sure.
Everybody is looking for a-(not too comfortable) angle. A woman hawks used plastic bags to the woman who fills them with grains and peas and resells them. Look closely and you see two young boys stand guard over an open ditch and force people to pay a toll to cross their makeshift bridge …That’s the Nigeria I live in. One I feel should get better from the state it is in at this very point.
My country is an open market and it remains so, till something special happens.
…once inside the main market, different layers of the Nollywood economy unfold. Layers that mirrors the complexity, corruption and entrepreneurial energy and maybe stupidity of many Nigerians in whole. There is a young man, one of many, who has traveled over 110 minutes, a distance that should take him just 25 minute,from his part of the city.
If the roads were free from unnecessary traffic to buy locally made movies sold on DVDs for the 70 to 100 Naira (about 50c to 50c). He will then sell them in a stall at home for 250-300 Naira (about $1+).
But what’s striking is that the pirated versions of foreign films, like 12 years a slave and half of a yellow sun, sell for just 35 Naira (20c). That’s considerably less than the local stuff, which is a tawdry and fine mix of action, romance, gospel, soft core porn and horror, mixed in with the occasional tribal drama. Distributors, many of whom are local thugs or the filmmakers themselves, take the movies, make copies of them (legitimate and otherwise) and sell them from warehouses behind the market stalls to buyers both big and small from all over–Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, the Caribbean, the U.K., the U.S., everywhere.
As a matter of fact Nollywood films don’t shy away from documenting many of the daily struggles of Nigerians–the violence, the poverty and social disruption as Africa urbanizes. But the movies also showcase their dream’s-dream that have a grounding in reality. Post-GDP “rebasing” (which means updating the way GDP is measured), filmed entertainment represent over 1.9% of the countries economy or even more, that’s if I choose to be careful with words; Over $7billion, which is a conservative estimate, given that it does not include the vast wealth made by handlers of the black market.
That’s huge for an emerging economy-all of America’s creative industries put together represents just 3% of GDP. And it’s likely to grow faster now. as a crop of returning expat entrepreneurs prepare to transform the industry by taking it digital. But would the wealth gotten by the industry when they take the whole thing digital, be a source of joy to the general populace? huh?
The question is whether the Nigerian government, which can’t provide a reliable national grid system; protect intellectual property; curb corruption or even protect many, most especially it’s citizen, which in itself has turned out to be the biggest roadblock to the success of the industry-and the country.
“Entertainment could be as important a business in Nigeria as the space Oil has taken for a very long time,” says Yewande Sadiku, chief executive of Stanbic IBTC Capital Limited in Lagos, who recently produced Nollywood’s highest-end film to date, and adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun; one of my all time best which features international names like Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor, the star of 12 Years a Slave. “But the government made a decision to invest in oil, in expense of other “very” important sector, which includes The film business here, which has thrived in spite of the government and its attitude to the Nigerian film industry.
…to be continued
WRITTEN AND EDITED BY CHARLES OKPERE
Watch Out For #TheDissident