Nigeria has a thriving film industry in Nollywood, and recently the UK government took a keener interest in this by embarking on a fact finding trade mission to explore opportunities in the industry.
UK BACKS AFRICAN CONTINENTAL FREE TRADE AREA
This mission was further supported by the UK government’s backing of Africa’s ambitious continental free trade initiative last month. This initiative, African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), is an emerging trade pact aimed at forming the world’s largest free trade area by connecting almost 1.3 billion people across the 54 countries on the African continent. The agreement aims to create a single market for goods and services in order to deepen the economic integration of Africa.
In committing to AfCFTA, the UK government has launched a programme of up to £35 million to support the negotiations and implementation of the AfCFTA and this promises to create jobs, and produce new commercial opportunities for businesses across Africa and the UK.
COLLABORATION BETWEEN UK AND NIGERIAN FILM
In Nigeria, the film industry is where the UK is putting the spotlight by attempting to create channels for filmmakers from the UK and Nigeria to explore and develop co-productions, as well as opportunities for African film fixers. With the UK hosting the second largest population of Nigerians outside of Nigeria, it makes sense that the UK government would see the value in establishing stronger trade ties with Nigeria.
Film is a natural vehicle through which Nigerians residing in the UK can remain connected to their roots. The streaming service, Netflix, has already noted the vast potential on the African continent and its well established film industries, such as Nollywood. In October 2021, Netflix launched a short film competition with UNESCO in a bid to encourage diverse local African stories and bring them to the world.
In March this year, Korede Azeez, a budding Nigerian filmmaker won the competition along with five other Africans. The winners will each receive large cash prizes towards crafting, through local production companies, short films telling African stories. Winners will also receive guidance from Netflix-appointed supervising producers and African mentors within the industry. All this support of African film shows that this recent collaboration between the UK and Nigeria will enable both countries to expand their footprints in the film industry for Nigerians in the country and the diaspora.
UK TRADE MISSION TO NIGERIA
The recent UK trade mission opened up networking opportunities to over two dozen Nigerian members of the film industry, including producers, directors, actors, screenwriters and cinematographers where they were able to meet with their UK peers. It is clear that these opportunities have been much needed for some time as evidenced by a series of creative sector webinars that was led by UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) Nigeria in May 2021, said Helen Grant, the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Nigeria.
OBSTACLES TO DOING BUSINESS IN NIGERIAN FILM
Opening up business opportunities between the UK and Nigeria does not come without some obstacles though, particularly forex constraints and the fuel subsidy, but when working on film productions, with the appropriate level of discussions and planning and engagement of film fixers, these too can be overcome.
For the film industry, facilitating trade in and out of Nigerian ports will certainly be an area that potential business people in the film industry will want to be eyeing carefully. Another concern for people across Nigeria is dealing with the country’s infrastructure, especially in Lagos. For instance, electricity is a real problem with its patchy and unreliable power supply. To mitigate the impact of power cuts, many rely on generators, which cause environmental and noise pollution, and despite Nigeria being an oil producing nation, are also quite costly to run.
OVERCOMING CHALLENGES TO BUSINESS
To meet some of the challenges faced in Nigeria, particularly in Lagos, there is the ongoing development of an unprecedented sustainable and eco-friendly property venture, Eko Atlantic. This is an artificial island being reclaimed just off the coast of Lagos, and is anticipated to become a business centre and a financial hub for the whole of West Africa. It is here that future businesses, including film producers, are expected to flock.
With events like Copa Lagos, the annual internationally televised beach soccer tournament, already being held there, it is evident that further opportunities await. The tournament is broadcasted on 21 international channels including Eurosport, Al-Jazeera, Globo, ESPN, Sky Sport, Canal Plus, FOX Sports, Supersport, and in one national partner channel AIT (African Independent Television).
Not just commercial enterprises are in support of the growth opportunities in places like Eko Atlantic though. Like the UK government, the United States government also sees great potential in Nigeria, with the recent groundbreaking of their new Consulate at Eko Atlantic at the end of March.The $537 million new Consulate construction project will produce the largest US Consulate in the world and is expected to be completed in 2027.
On 26 April, the UK will host Nigeria’s Minister Adebayo’s delegation in London for the Economic Development Forum, and it is expected that discussions around film industry collaborations and its benefits will continue.