Alabidun Shuaib Abdulrahman
African societies are essentially multi-ethnic and multicultural. Africa is the second most populous continent which is home to one billion people, about 15% of the world’s population. With 54 countries, the continent is divided into Northern Africa with its Arab cultures and part of the MENA region (Middle East- North Africa), and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Each country has a unique culture. Most Sub-Saharan Countries show strong ties to traditional African culture. Other countries, like Angola, where the colonial influence of the Portuguese lasted longer than in British or French colonies, the culture shows a very strong European as well as Brazilian influence due to its Portuguese language.
Multiculturalism in Africa is premised on challenges to cultural supremacy occasioned by the large-scale migrations of people of different backgrounds, views, norms, traditions, cultures, among others who experienced alienation, marginalization, and exclusion in the host country. Despite the fact in diversity, they experience in everyday life communal mutuality in village festivals, traditional dancing tunes and steps, religious worships and socio-cultural cooperation in works among others.
Meanwhile, tribal traditions in Africa to some large extent influence the design of socio-cultural entertainment with identical experiences except in the language of communication.
At the struggle for independence, African theatre and cultural forms became elements of resistance and the fight for independence. Songs, dances, and ritual dramas mobilized people to understand and reject colonialism.
Throughout history, popular theatre forms such as dances, dramas, musical compositions, narratives, and others have played roles in the cultural struggles of the African peoples and their development.
Today, however, in line with the integration agenda of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Nollywood films have taken the front burner by upholding African cultural practices and promoting such among diasporas living in the various countries in the sub – region and in addition re – infusing the African practices and cultures into the original inhabitants of the various countries even outside the continent.
A recent survey conducted by Fayomi, Oluyemi O, PhD and published by European Centre for Research Training and Development UK revealed that, 90.2% of Ghanaians and 65.4% of Beninese watched Nigerian movies popularly known as Nollywood films. This shows how appetite for entertainment is growing among Africans. This high percentage of viewership in these two countries might be linked with the roles Nollywood films play in Africa.
Nollywood is commercially-savvy but the values of entertainment of its clientele cannot be quantified. The entertainment bit is primary to the mode of representation in the industry, yet in that pursuit, one cannot forget its sense of mission, which is to produce culture.
The Nollywood’s model of rapid production and home consumption is now being exported across the continent, with countries such as Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, and Mali adopting this model over traditional American or European features. It is said to generate an estimated $500 to $800 million annually and is one of the largest Nigerian employers by sector and second only to agriculture.
On average, more than 2,000 feature length movies are made each year. A feature movie sells an average of 50,000 copies at about $2 a DVD, offering Africans an affordable entertainment option.
The rapid growth of entertainment in Africa is not only restricted to movies but also music industry which Price Waterhouse Coopers Entertainment and Media Outlook estimates South Africa total music revenue will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.4 percent to R2.4 billion ($178 million) by 2020, fueled by surging digital music streaming revenue.
As noted above, Nigeria remains one of the world’s fastest-growing Entertainment and Media (E&M) markets with overall growth of 15.7 percent in 2016, reaching $3.8 billion. Nigeria’s music industry alone is expected to grow at a breathtaking 12.9 percent CAGR—almost doubling from $47 million in 2015 to over $86 million in 2020—on the back of strong mobile music revenue.
Similarly, Kenya will enjoy strong growth in the next few years because of its strong mobile music sector. Kenya’s total music industry revenue is projected to rise from $19 million to $29 million in 2020.
Recently, Black Panther becomes a huge hit when it was reported that the film raked in over $500m after just 17 days in theatres, making it the 10th highest-domestic-grossing movie in history. It is a film that envisions an Africa that is strong, independent, peaceful and technologically advanced.
With the African Development Bank’s dream of building today a better future for Africa tomorrow, Africa can accelerate its industrialization, if the regional and sub-regional organizations can seize the opportunity of Nollywood general acceptance to achieve their objectives of integrations among the citizens of countries in the continent.
The African Development Bank can use the medium provided by entertainment industry in Africa to solve the problem of ethnic clashes, slavery, human trafficking, and act of terrorism by commissioning the African movie and musical producers to produce films and music that will promote unity in diversity among the people of Africa.
The major players in entertainment industry in Africa can be enlightened on the important roles their works play in the unity and development of the continent because in the time past, entertainment have helped to rescue, incorporate, preserve, and mediate not only the people’s aspirations, but also those factors which define their beliefs, expressions, and historical cultural development in general.
Abdulrahman writes from Wuye, Abuja via [email protected]