How Does the Nigerian Film Industry Echo Our Changing Perceptions of Luxury?
Reports from September 2019 by Trading Economics indicate that the GDP of Nigeria grew by 1.94% in the second quarter of the year, a continued growth from the 1.9% growth throughout 2018, and an indicator of the projected growth of 2.4% in 2020. Nigeria is 31st out of 196 countries whose GDP is tracked and measured. In economic terms, Nigeria is booming.
As the financial pressures are being eased from Nigerian households, the culture of the country is also seeing a shift towards redefined luxury. From the changing shape of how entertainment is made in Nollywood to how it is consumed afterwards, how exactly have Nigerians been redefining luxury?
Nollywood or Bust
Fondly named Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry is the second most prolific film industry in the world, surpassing Hollywood in production and only beaten by the churn of Bollywood. The industry may have been, to some, a slapdash affair, but international financiers have turned their eyes to the potential goldmine of investment that Nollywood could be.
For instance, the pay-for-TV model of streaming is still popular in West Africa while it may be depleting throughout the rest of the world, and French company Vivendi Canal+ are interested in learning the tricks of the trade of Nigeria’s longevity. Indeed, African subscribers have grown from half a million in 2014 to four million in 2019, while South African MultiChoice is testing streaming platforms for those with low incomes and bad access. The close of 2018 saw Nollywood valued at around $50 billion and deemed it the nation’s second-biggest employer (after agriculture).
The investment of foreign companies means that equipment can be upgraded, systems can be more robust, and the industry can continue to thrive, create jobs, provide incomes and feed back to itself. One such coup for the partnership between Netflix and Nollywood has been Netflix purchasing and releasing as its own film, Lion Heart by Genevieve Nnaji. The promising move means that Nollywood is seen as a contender on the world’s stage.
Instead of merely being pulp-fiction-style film and TV creators, those in the film industry of Nigeria are seen increasingly as the powerhouses they are, as Genevieve Nnaji shows us. Netflix is guarded about viewership of its products, but if this venture is successful, they will likely approach further Nollywood creators and studios to create similar partnerships – or at least be more receptive to Nollywood pitches.
The Shifting Meaning of Luxury
At the same time, the world has redefined how it sees luxury. Once a trip to the cinema outside the home was a treat – and for many Nigerians, it still is. The advent of streaming services and the growth of investment in these areas means that luxuries can be commanded within the home. The growth of subscriptions for streaming services throughout West Africa and indeed the wider world show that what we once considered to be luxuries are now more readily available. Redefining luxury comes hand in hand with the growth of GDP and Nigeria’s second-biggest industry, which should help benefit ordinary people.
But it also means that those who never bothered with the cinema are able to dabble. This has already been seen in other industries, such as the entertainment niche that is the casino industry. For instance, the Federal Palace Casino at Sun International in Victoria Island in Lagos attracts a certain type of customer and provides a certain level of luxury service. However, the growth of online casino and its accessibility of it have changed the view that visiting a casino is a luxury, as well as its demographics, including people who might have otherwise had to abstain. Online casino platforms are also growing and attracting a wider audience, especially through adding several new types of games and making it easier for people to partake in the games, including those in Nigeria who might have e-wallets but not bank accounts.
The digital payments industry’s continued growth in the country also shows how people are looking at modern ways of doing traditional things. The call for full digital payments shows that older generations – who had traditional views of luxury and how things should be – are open to change and adapting to what might be called for going forward.
The growth of internet-based models of luxury isn’t just beneficial for those who live in Nigeria and want to watch Nollywood. For many Nigerians outside the country, accessing films from Nollywood used to be difficult, but streaming services have opened up the cinematic delights of Nigeria to the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians (and others) living overseas.
Nollywood is a key part of Nigerian culture and history, so keeping Nollywood in the family as generations change is important and modern technology means this is easier now than it was before. The ability to connect with aspects of previously considered luxury within the home means that more people are able to indulge and more people are able to offer and take part in treats and luxuries without the financial cost that once went along with them.