In recent years, both South Africa and Nigeria have seen significant growth in their film industries. Filmmakers from around the world are descending on South Africa, keen to take advantage of economic incentives and top-notch facilities. Nigeria’s film industry is more homegrown but, while it may not have the global reach or fame of Hollywood or India’s Bollywood, Nigeria’s “Nollywood” produces 1,000 films a year and is second only to its Indian counterpart in output. As different as the industries may be, the film businesses in both South Africa and Nigeria are notable and growing components of the countries’ economies.
According to a study conducted by the National Film and Video Foundation, an agency of South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture, the economic pay off for South Africa has been significant. The film industry has created approximately 35,000 jobs, a startling increase from the 4,000 it generated 20 years ago, while simultaneously stimulating exports, growing a host of supplier industries and contributing approximately R3.5 billion ($314 million) to the country’s gross domestic product. Sean Penn, Sacha Baron Cohen and Oscar winner Gavin Hood are all filming their latest projects in South Africa. And the state-of-the-art Cape Town Film Studios has had to turn down dozens of projects in the past year.
Since 1995, when South Africa first became a viable venue for film industry pursuits, the country has, by design, benefitted greatly from an influx of foreign moviemakers drawn to the country by its geographical diversity, strong local talent pool, state-of-the-art film facilities, sound government-sponsored financial incentives and favorable exchange rates. To date, South Africa has signed co-production treaties with eight countries and its Foreign Film and Television Production and Post-Production Incentive, which provides rebates that range from 20 to 25 percent, has been successful in attracting foreign-based film productions.
Notwithstanding the continued global interest in South Africa’s film industry, under several new government initiatives the country’s agenda will shift to focus more exclusively on the development of domestic productions and local filmmakers. On July 21, 2014, South Africa’s Industrial Development Corp. announced an initiative targeting the new generation of black filmmakers by establishing a R90 million (about $8 million) Emerging Black Filmmakers Fund. In addition, the South African Film and Television Production Incentive is now offering incentives to South African productions and official treaty co-productions with total production budgets of R2.5 million (about $222 000). And the South African Emerging Black Filmmakers Incentive, which aims to nurture and encourage emerging black filmmakers to develop major productions, will continue providing additional rebates for qualifying production expenditures in South Africa.
Unlike the blockbusters or local productions being made in South Africa, Nigeria’s Nollywood films are generally made on smaller, micro shoe-string budgets, filmed on handheld cameras, produced in a few weeks and released straight to video. Yet the film industry is reportedly the second largest employer in Nigeria and Nigerian box office revenues have nearly doubled since the industry exploded in 2009.
PricewaterhouseCoopers projects that Nigerian film revenues will grow an additional 70 percent by 2018 to become a $171 million a year industry. The projected growth may be fueled in part by a $200 million government film fund established in 2010 to assist in the development and improvement of Nollywood features. In May, Nigeria’s most expensive movie to date, Nigerian-born Biyi Bandele’s Half of a Yellow Sun, was released in the United States. The movie, which was based on a Nigerian novel and starred Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, had a $10 million budget. Eighty percent of the film’s financing came from Nigeria. On Oct. 1, 2014, Director Kunle Afolayan released his psychological thriller, October 1. The Lagos State Government was a partial sponsor of the film’s $2 million budget. And in November, Nigeria hosted Afriff, the fourth African Film Festival, which is developing into a sought-after platform to showcase African filmmakers.
It is evident that both South Africa and Nigeria are shining examples of countries that have successfully harnessed the film industry as an economic sector with excellent potential for growth. Both have worked strategically to cultivate a local and international presence, and also a platform to showcase each country’s rich cultural identity. If trends continue, we can expect to see more of both countries on the big screen, not only as settings for blockbusters, but also through the works of local South African and Nigerian filmmakers.