Saturday, 26 April 2014

2014 World IP Day reminds us about Nollywood - A Global Passion we 'really' do not know

This Leo shamefully feels a sense of relief that the 2014 World IP Day has come to his rescue for Part II of 'Copyright-based industries boost Nigeria's latest GDP: Time for a comprehensive study (Part I)'. [Afro Leo says that the title also meant: enough said, no need for a Part II] Yes, a blog post wouldn't do justice to this complex subject-matter; hence, this Leo will often rotate between Nollywood and entertainment industry in general. WIPO has helped him cut to the chase in fulfillment of his promise for a Part II

Background
WIPO's  decision to go with the theme, 'Movies – A Global Passion', was eloquently explained by its Director General, Mr Francis Gurry. Mr Gurry, obviously, had mention the three dominant global cinemas: Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood; but he didn't ignore other candidates with active film industries.

Nollywood - A Global Passion we 'really' do not know? Not really though. 

Call it 'hypothesis', 'hearsay', 'guesswork' or whatever, what we (or let's just say, I) know about Nigeria's entertainment industry, in general and as referenced in Part I, include the following:

(1) Officially, we do know that it represents 1.42% (circa 7 billion USD in value) of the country's GDP. How and where the baseline figure of 0.88% (2010) was plucked, only Afro Leo knows. 

(2) We know that the world's hottest hedge fund got involved in raising millions of dollars for a new business model in the industry. [Some serious business opportunity. Have you also noticed that this hedge fund currently holds shares in Netflix? Nice plan, says Afro Leo].

(3) We know that the content is increasingly consumed (e.g. in the UK herehere and here) or exploited outside Nigeria  - it is even topical at business conferences, according to sources including this Afro-IP post or others here and here. About time! Do you know how much Hollywood content is consumed in Nigeria? Afro Leo won't be shocked if the figure is high. Have a feel by looking at this cinema listings here

(4) Considering the size of the country and Nollywood, the number of cinemas is quiet lamentable. Indeed, distribution still remains Nollywood's biggest headache since the majority of its movies are churned out straight onto DVDs - a low-cost model praised or supported by some (e.g. here and here). Based on this Leo's limited geographical knowledge and online research, he understands that the available ones are concentrated in Lagos and a few others scattered around in other parts of the country. If power supply and security can be improved across the country, Afro Leo expects to see more investors pouring money into the cinema business. This may help raise the bar on film quality to a higher level to the extent that Nollywood will officially match Bollywood and Hollywood toe to toe - maybe not in terms of box office losses profits.

(5) It is obvious, when you visit the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), that anti-piracy headlines are all over the place (also see this previous Afro-IP post). What about IP research materials or statistics? Shouldn't the NCC also be responsible for conducting or commissioning various research projects into copyright-based industries? Should the focus always be on anti-piracy?

(6) With a great deal of international recognition of Nollywood's potential, the Nigerian Government seems to have put something in place to support the industry albeit that it is reported to be in chaos

What we (or I) don't actually know about Nigeria's entertainment industry include:

(1) The number of people employed or commercial entities engaged in this industry
(2) The actual breakdown, into subsets, of this industry as well as the whole copyright-based industries and  how they interact or should interact with one another
(3) The value when broken down by trade i.e. imports and exports
(4) Any correlation between copyright infringement activities and the success or decline of the industry
(5) Whether existing IP legislation or policy tools were based on informed evidence including a costs vs benefits analysis
(6) Whether Nollywood, as an example, has an easily identifiable structure right from the development of the idea (script) down to the selling of the finished quality product (the film)
(7) Who benefits, the most, from the industry [At least Afro Leo knows that these entertainment stars are relatively similar to their Hollywood counterparts since they also secure lucrative brand endorsement deals every now and then]
(8) What are the emerging business models and how do they affect the market including its legal landscape

Why should we or anyone know? Not difficult to tell; reasons include:
  • It would help the Government decide if it needs to implement the international treaties which it is already signatory to
  • It would equally help decide on the apparent copyright reform - which has since somehow disappeared from the radar - or how best to support the industry
  • The research would attract and better direct more investors, of all shapes and sizes, into the industry e.g. invest in internet infrastructure for online distribution?
  • It would help industry participants realise their real value and hasten a reasonable formalisation of the industry as a whole
Conclusion
One can almost imagine how gruelling Nigeria's overdue GDP re-basing exercise must have been, together with the inevitable and generous margin of error. Credibility is paramount in this sort of exercise - this  was why Nigeria had to stress that the World Bank, among others, endorsed it. Similar to other African countries (e.g. Kenya and South Africa) who have assessed the economic contributions of their copyright-based industries, Nigeria will report data integrity challenges. One only has to look at the GDP data sources in Part I for the telltale sign. Nonetheless, Nigeria's own study will have learned from the experiences of others to most likely conclude that its copyright-based industries significantly contribute to the economy (the employment potential is huge) albeit not in comparison to traditional sectors such as agriculture and natural resources.

Entertainment industry participants, themselves, are not even sure of the true economic value of the industry. For example, Yewande Sadiku, Executive Producer of the expensive Half of a Yellow Sun film, tells us about the key challenges facing Nollywood as well as the untapped opportunities. Similar views about Nigeria's entertainment industry, in general, can also be found here and here. Therefore, it is imperative that Nigeria finds the means and will to conduct this first-ever economic assessment together with the overall societal costs and benefits of the IP regime that it currently uses to promote creativity and innovation. If need be, WIPO is available to provide the technical assistance or research service and/or even fund the project itself - like it did with Kenya. Furthermore, Nigeria might consider taking advantage of its IP cooperation agreement with the UK - a country that is currently reforming its copyright regime for the digital age.  [Is Nigeria not capable of commissioning this study with its own resources?]

The entertainment industry, largely, showcases Nigeria's culture and people across the world seem to be gradually buying into it. Thus, it should be afforded appropriate attention by government just like the traditional sectors of the economy. Nigeria should also start learning from the mistakes and successes of others: for example, the UK not only has something called a 'Creative Industries Council', it also has a supportive financial and tax regime in place, and an annual review of the sector.

Perhaps, more time is needed to gather sufficient data sets for a comprehensive study of the industry. Let's hope that WIPO can use this opportunity to urge Nigeria to prepare something basic for the time being.

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Lobato Ramon, Creative industries and informal economies: Lessons from Nollywood is here
Global Trends in Creative Economies in Africa, here
Creative Africa: how can the arts drive development? - podcast here
South Africa's Henley Business School now offering  MBA in Music & Creative Industries here
Is GDP still relevant in today's world? The answer may lie here
UK's introductory guide to the creative economy is here, while a toolkit to map out the sectors is here

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