A classic Nollywood scene. (Photo/Canal C/Flickr).Follow

The ‘Nigeriafication’ Of Africa: Triumphing In A War It Never Set Out To Win

FROM Uganda, Kenya and on to South Africa, it is de rigueur today for the most popular DJs on FM stations to imitate Nigerian accents.

Preachers in independent churches in several parts of the continent are also increasingly affecting Nigerian accents.

A few years ago, American accents were all the rage with these groups. Though the jargon of American hip hop still rules, it has some serious competition from Nigerian flavours.
What is going on?

Simple really. American accents ruled because of the total dominance of US cultural products and its evangelical churches and colourful preachers in Africa over the last 40 years. Not any more.

The change is illustrated by the recent June 1 premiere of the Nigerian film “The CEO”, to pick just one example.

There was a lot of breathless reporting in Nigeria about “history being made” with the premiere of the much-anticipated thriller onboard an Air France from Lagos to Paris.

The event on Air France was down to the fact the film received financial backing from the French carrier in a first for the airline, which saw it as a platform to drive up its brand in Nigeria.

“The CEO” is about a telecoms firm looking to replace its boss. Five members of the company’s management are dispatched across Africa to find the best candidate. Significantly, the cast members include Benin’s Grammy award-winning singer Angelique Kidjo, as well as actors from South Africa, Kenya, Ivory Coast and Morocco.

The choice of the cast reflects how much Nollywood, as the Nigerian film industry is known, has become aware of its growing pan-African character.

The CEO is a slick production, a far cry from the horribly grainy material shot by cameramen with shaky hands, which had nearly become the hallmark of Nollywood.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Nollywood was a favourite butt of jokes, with its amateurish stories of witchcraft, love triangles, and conniving village chiefs. Few respectable Africans would admit that they watched the films.


But they struck a chord as authentic to the mass audiences who found no shared experiences in Hollywoood films.

Now Nollywood is big. In April 2014, it was included in Nigeria’s economic data for the first time—and was one of the factors that propelled Nigeria to the top of the table as Africa’s largest economy. The film industry in Africa’s most populous nation was estimated to be worth 4.3 billion, or 1.2% of GDP.

It is a kiss of death to be a private TV station in Africa and not have a Nollywood offering.

Nollywood has grown along with the rise of Nigerian hip hop and its stars like P Square, Wiz Kid, D-banj, and Davido in Africa, and the proliferation of Nigerian churches on the continent.

Nigerian film, music, and churches never set out to be pan-African brands, and to this day there is no big government strategy to grow its cultural products on the continent or globally.

It rode on the privatisation of the airwaves, the spread of satellite TV, and the demand for African content that was a counter movement to globalisation.

The current economic malaise in Nigeria caused by the slump of oil, its primary export, might have thrown it off balance. But that will likely not stop its cultural match, that was never dependent on state patronage.

The years ahead in Africa, look set to be very Nigerian.


    Comments 1

    1. Simi Ajayi

      A wise man once said the job of governance is mainly done through PR. The sooner the Nigerian Government realises that Nollywood is the country’s best PR machine, the better. If the government funds a few well produced movies that potray Nigeria and Nigerians in the right way (obviously covertly) almmost all our bad image issues will be solved globally

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