India to help build film city in Nigeria

New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) As part of its expanding "development partnership" with Africa, India will help Kano State of Nigeria set up a film city in the West African country whose uber-booming movie industry will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next month.

With the world's youngest and fastest-growing population, governments in Africa are facing pressure to provide jobs. The film city project is being established keeping in view the job creation potential of the Nigerian film industry and the need for a "fruitful export" for the country which is seeking to diversify its oil-dominated economy.

The EXIM Bank of India, which has tasted success in financing Bollywood fims, is advising its Nigerian counterpart, NEXIM, at the intricacies and nuances of film fiancing. EXIM India had arranged a capacity-building training programme for NEXIM officials last year.

The film industry of Nigeria, known as Nollywood, produces around 1,000-1,200 movies a year, made on the digital format. The business is maturing in quality and looking to acquire new markets outside of Nigeria and Africa.

Seeing the strong business potential and employment generation capacity, NEXIM has launched film financing on EXIM India's consultancy.

The World Bank is also currently assisting the Nigerian government to create a "Growth and Employment in States" project to support the entertainment industry, believing that if the industry is properly managed, a million more jobs could be created in the sector that President Goodluck Jonathan refers as "our shining light".

The Nigerian film industry came into being in 1992 with "Living in Bondage" that sold more than 500,000 copies in VHS tapes. It produces about 50 films a week, second only to Bollywood and more than Hollywood in annual numbers. Productions from Nollywood is the oil-rich country's second biggest employer.

"We shot from VHS to digital cameras. Nollywood's first home video was "Living in Bondage" which told the African story that nobody told. And now, the world is celebrating us because of our story told by us, it is an achievement," says Zik Okafor, president, Association of Movie Producers.

The India-Nigeria cinema connection is over 50 years old, ever since Lebanese distributors began importing Indian movies in the 1950s. Over the years, According to social anthropologist Brian Larkin of Columbia University, generations of Hausa youth have grown up in Northern Nigeria watching Bollywood films. Indian films have influenced Hausa fashions, their songs have been copied by Hausa singers and their stories have influenced the writings of Nigerian novelists.

Inspired by Bollywood, a literary genre called Soyayya or "love literature" developed the 1980s, which is quite popular and is reported to have become an important tool in Hausa women's campaign to modernise their community.

In Kano, the largest city in northwestern Nigeria, Indian films are shown virtually every night in cinemas and remain among the most popular of TV programmes.

Okafor said with the setting up of a "Nollywood Village" to mark the industry's 20 years of existence, the film sector would be bonded, thereby making it easier for artistes and stakeholders in the industry to meet and take quick decisions.

"We have been operating from our homes, so we should have a base where we can be located...We want a place that can contain television actors, different guild associations, creative designers and so many others in the same environment," Okafor told the Nigerian news agency, NAN.

According to the Nigerian Export Import Bank (NEXIM) Managing Director, Roberts Orya, the Nigerian film industry has stunned the global movie world through its "innovation, imaginativeness and prolific performance," resulting in annual revenue earnings of about $300 to $800 million in recent years.

Euromonitor International and Reed Exhibitions, organizers of the World Travel Market, in a report last November said that Africa's projected 5.2 percent GDP growth in 2013 would be due in part to the popularity of Nigerian films, which it said would also attract domestic and regional tourism.

Although its revenues are not on par with Bollywood's and Hollywood's, Nollywood's success has generated world interest leading to joint ventures and collaboration in recent times. The West, especially Hollywood, is warming up to Nigerian cinema.

Time, Bollywood gives a serious thought to this.

(Saroj Mohanty can be contacted at Saroj.m@ians.in)

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