Africa’s film and music business is booming with raw talent, creativity and energy. The media and entertainment industries are registering above-average growth in many African countries and are expected to grow at 5% GDP per capita up to 2015. Nollywood, for example, Africa‘s biggest and most popular slice of the film industry, with roots in Nigeria, is now worth more than $800 million. In a country with a high unemployment rate, Nollywood employs over a million people, making the film industry Nigeria‘s largest employer after agriculture.
The film and music industry has a large following of over one billion people, on the continent and among Africans and non-Africans around the world. In fact, Nollywood has grown quite
rapidly in the last two decades to become the second largest movie company in the world (based on the number of movies released). It releases over 2,000 new movies every year, ahead of Hollywood, USA (about 800) and just behind Bollywood, India (around 3,000).
Film and music is not just booming in Nigeria alone. The markets in Ghana, East Africa and South Africa are also growing very fast, both in size and popularity within and outside the continent. Although plagued by low funding and poor distribution networks, the African film and music industry is still in its early growth phase with a lot of lucrative prospects for smart entrepreneurs.
According to a study by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), producing a full-length movie in Africa‘s film industry costs between $25,000 and $70,000 on average. Most films are produced within a month and are usually profitable within two to three weeks of release. Most DVD movies easily sell more than 20,000 units, while the most successful sell over 200,000.
An interesting and promising trend has emerged in the industry in the last few years: A growing number of film and music releases now feature collaborations between top-rated Western actors and musicians with local African acts. There is also a noticeable improvement in film and music quality as the budgets for production are increasing.
The success and potential growth of Africa‘s film and music industry has opened a lot of opportunities for production houses, cinematographers, movie editors, animation specialists, costume designers, makeup artists, sound producers, choreographers and food catering crews. The film and movie distribution business is also showing huge potential as cinemas, consumer media (e.g. DVD, VCD, Blu-ray, PayTV and internet-based television) jostle for greater market share. So figuring out how you can build a popular distribution platform could prove to be financially very rewarding even before you are well known in the film or music industry.
As you can see, there is a wide spectrum of businesses you could start within these creative industries. Offer something of great quality and with an edge to make it into this somewhat competitive market, and then network, network, network to get your foot in the door and keep it there.
Top Countries & Policy Guidance
Top countries with a vibrant film industry and international reputation are Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Egypt, but other countries have a significant and growing national or regional industry. Among them are Morocco, Somalia, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Namibia and Ethiopia. The development of the film industry actively contributes to the creation of jobs among the youth and increases GDP in those countries, and can therefore be viewed as an economic driver. However, be aware that you need to pay the city council for actually filming anything in public! This is a huge hurdle for those trying to get started.
Several francophone countries have a popular music and film scene.
Action & Tips
One top tip is to consider the Seychelles! The islands are the backdrop for many of Africa‘s films and in 2014 the Africa Film Factory and the South African Broadcasting Association (SABA) had discussions with the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) to produce a series of high-quality African films for an international audience in the Seychelles. What a beautiful business destination, but the fact is you may be filling a growing new market locally!
Get in touch with the Africa Film Factory at africafilmfactory.com, or look at their website to find clues for your business concept in Africa. Look at their careers section: it may be an indicator for market gaps, or a chance to get your foot in the door if you seek more experience before going it alone.
Jason Njoku – iROKOtv (UK/Nigeria) In 2010, Jason Njoku noticed a huge gap and opportunity in Africa‟s film distribution network when his mother asked him to download a Nigerian movie and he could not find a convenient way to do so online. He saw that although DVDs were the common channel for film distribution in Nollywood, they were grossly inadequate and ineffective, especially for Nollywood fans outside Africa. Worse still, the DVD-based distribution system is vulnerable to piracy, a challenge that loses the industry up to $200 million a year.
Born to Nigerian parents and raised in London, Jason flew to Nigeria to purchase internet distribution rights from movie producers. He has since catalogued more than 5,000 African movies on iROKOtv, his online movie platform. Dubbed by Forbes Magazine as the Netflix of Africa, iROKOtv currently receives more than 10 million monthly visits from viewers around the world. At the time of writing, his company has attracted more than $12 million in investment funding from venture capital firms and realizes monthly revenues in the region of $1 million. Following his success with iROKOtv Jason set up iROKING, an internet platform for distributing African music.
Have another look at the year in which Jason‟s mother asked her son to download a movie for her in the UK. Yes, you read it correctly; it was as recently as 2010. After Jason failed a couple of times with other business ideas he had pursued, he set up iROKOtv with a friend, earning him millions of dollars. This is the potential power of Africa‟s markets right now, if you have that important sense of urgency to step in.
Michael Muthiga – Fatboy Animations (Kenya)
If you have children and live in the West, you probably know Tinga Tinga Tales, an animation series of African animals that featured on BBC‟s CBeebies and the Disney Channel. Young entrepreneur Michael Muthiga is the founder of Nairobi-based Fatboy Animations and the creator of Tinga Tinga Tales. He has started his business a few years ago as a hobby and has now achieved great success and international exposure with his African animation characters and cartoon clips.
His 3-D cartoons have appeared in several adverts on Kenyan television and now he is planning to catch the eyes of Hollywood! On his small desk, three computers, a tablet, and his amazing skills are still at the centre of his work today. Michael believes that his great success is due to the mostly Kenyan characters he features in his cartoons to which many Kenyans and other Africans can relate “Hey, this guy on the screen behaves like me.”