The second most spouted assertion about Nollywood (including Kanny and Yolly), after ‘I don’t watch Nollywood films but I like *insert Nollywood film name* film’, is ‘Nollywood has no structure’.
When people say this and I ask what they mean, they repeat the assertion more vehemently or (the more enlightened) talk about piracy, or lack of cinemas or distribution, the (poor) quality of the films, or the informality of businesses in the sector. All weaknesses or threats no doubt but which singly or combined, do not translate to ‘no structure’.
Piracy is a macro level factor and in a country with less than optimum police force (sorry Uncle Yomi), an inefficient judiciary, outdated legislation and quite low levels of enforcement of law and order, even though it pinches the industry, you have to fix some bigger issues to fix this.
There are many tools for industry analysis and whichever one you use, it is clear where Nollywood plays. Using Porter’s, we see a moderate threat of new entrants (guilds, established companies, factions and caucuses create some (surmountable) barriers to entry; we also see some suppliers with strong bargaining power (hello Ali Nuhu!), low bargaining power of buyers because of the sheer scale of the buying market, moderate threat of substitutes (film and non-film, online and offline). Whichever other tools you care to use — SWOT, PESTEL, Industry Maturity, you can clearly see ‘a structure’ — warts and all.
There are quite clearly defined clusters — in Kano, Lagos and Onitsha/Asaba. There is also Pound Road in Aba and some may argue, therefore, that is a cluster there but my view is that it is conceptually (and aesthetically) linked to Onitsha / Asaba, therefore, part of that cluster.
Businesses are informal but this is not a Nollywood specific factor — there is data that clearly shows that MSMEs (of which Nollywood has a proliferation) typically remain unregistered because of the high costs and bureaucracy associated with the process. When you add the disincentive of being on the taxman’s radar, (while dealing with the wahala of poor public services) it is inevitable that informality is the norm.
People also talk about weak business models and a quite undeveloped value chain— all evidence of poor enterprise training and business support services and a lack of diversity of skills in the sector again not peculiar to Nollywood and only indicative of wider issues; not unique nor obliterating the (albeit far from perfect) structure that exists.
There are industry associations across the industry- many of them part of CONGA. Many people in the industry are not members of associations, the naysayers are quick to cry but, #FreedomOfAssociationTinz. Check out Article 40 of the Nigerian Constitution and if you are one of those international exposure people, check out Article 20 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
There are industry regulatory institutions which the film and video censors board term the ‘Creative Regulatory Quartet’ so if it is the regulation that defines the structure for you, you can check those out. Now whether those organisations are delivering or not, is now a matter to determine the quality of the structure rather than the existence thereof (thereof LOL).
So the next time someone tells you Nollywood has no structure, tell them…
Ojoma Ochai is Head of Arts, West Africa at British Council