Learning from the success of Nollywood

Andrew Mugoya of Asilia and Afriapps returns with a second guest post.


I have to admit, I have never really watched a Nollywood movie. At least not from start to finish. I first came across them whilst at university where Nigerian friends (and Kenyan ones who had already fallen under the influence) would pass me some from their vast collections. Increasingly since then, I have noticed them in more and more places. They come as part of my home TV satellite package; they are part of the in-flight entertainment on my flights to and from Kenya; they are one of the most popular sources of entertainment in Kenya ; and now in the UK (and I suspect in the US and many other countries) they are also breaking into the mainstream.

Despite not being the biggest fan, I cannot hide my admiration for this success. So much so that lately, I have been trying to understand the reason behind this meteoric rise and how other African industries (like we African app developers) might be able to learn from it.  There is evidently a lot we can learn but the two lessons that stand out for me are:

  1. Perfecting your product for your local market can eventually translate into global success and;
  2. If your product is good enough, Africans will find a way to get it it regardless of any difficulties.

On going local
You can’t help but be impressed by the way that Nollywood movies unashamedly embrace Nigerian culture. They are authentic, unpretentious and unapologetic about it. This has meant that their core local audience is able to fully relate and this in turn has translated into vast local success. Further, this authenticity has appealed to an international audience interested in Nigerian culture. Going local has also created a recognisable and identifiable brand as well as a unique selling point that is difficult for outsiders to compete against.

Africans will always find a way
You just have to consider that on paper, it would seem impossible for an African movie industry to thrive by depending solely on local audiences – poor infrastructure, an audience with limited economic resources and rampant piracy. Despite all this, Nollywood not only survives but thrives and is able to generate lucrative returns to sustain the industry and artists. As I have witnessed in Kenya, fans will do whatever they need to – borrow, share, steal or neglect their work – to enjoy the big Nollywood sensations.

These two lessons stand out for me because very often in Africa we are almost ashamed to be African and try too hard to appear Western. Be it in trying to give the impression that an African company is European or in an entertainment artist trying to sound American. We forget that embracing our culture and appearance is our biggest chance of standing out in a crowded global marketplace. Nollywood is clear proof that local and international success can come by being proudly and unashamedly African.


Check out Andrew’s previous post, “5 reasons why Ghana is the next African app powerhouse

Illustration by Lulu Kitololo 

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