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Home Startups Nollywood Saves the Day in Africa As Key Economic Driver

Nollywood Saves the Day in Africa As Key Economic Driver

by Sam Wakoba
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Jason Njoku cofounder and CEO iROKOtv

Jason Njoku cofounder and CEO iROKOtv

Yes, it has happened and though you have questions, South Africa’s reign as Africa’s top economic powerhouse is over and a new oga is at the top.

Nigeria has overtaken SA as Africa’s largest economy after it added data which was previously uncalculated from sectors such as telecommunications, airlines, information technology says the Nigerian government putting the West African country’s GDP now totalling $510Bn.

The new report puts Nollywood’s contribution to the at around 1.3% of total output.

According to Jason Njoku, co-founder and CEO of iROKOtv, the VC-backed Video-On-Demand (VOD) platform for Nollywood movies: “It comes as no surprise data from Nollywood has been included in the recalculated GDP figures for Nigeria. It has been growing steadily for the past 20 years and can legitimately be uttered in the same breath as the likes of Hollywood and Nollywood when it comes to movie output data, with some 1,500-2,000 movies being made every year.

“Nollywood is the most hard working, brutal and dynamic of industries that Nigeria has spawned. It is an economic miracle that the industry has not only flourished, but grown exponentially, considering the conservative budgets movie producers have to work with, as well as the antiquated methods of distribution that held the industry back for so many years.

“Nollywood has been, for too long, actively discounted as a potential industry for growth in Nigeria. Investors at home and abroad were unwilling to invest, putting their money in traditional sectors such as agriculture, oil and property. In 2010, iROKOtv secured series A  funding of $3Mn from US-based Tiger Global, the very first significant, multi-million dollar investment into the industry, which is really quite astonishing. Since then, we have closed on a further $19Mn of VC investment, bringing the total to $21Mn, which is testament to how Nollywood is now, finally, considered by the international investor community as a very real and exciting investment prospect in Africa.

 “Today is a landmark today for Nollywood, with no little thanks to the movie producers, actors and distributors who have helped to put Nigeria on the map culturally and with their creativity and dedication to their art, are helping to drive the economy upwards.”

iROKOtv, coined by media commentators as the ‘Netflix of Africa’, was launched by London-born Manchester University graduate Nigerian Jason Njoku, who saw a gap in the market for Nollywood distribution in 2009, when he couldn’t find any Nollywood movies on or offline. He moved from his home in London to Lagos and started buying the online licences to hundreds of Nollywood movies. The company started as a YouTube channel called NollywoodLove, and became YouTube’s official channel partner in Nigeria for Nollywood movies.

Having secured VC funding from Tiger Global in 2011, Njoku was able to build a dedicated VOD platform for Nollywood called iROKOtv, which launched in December 2010 and was initially supported 100% by advertising revenue. In July 2012, iROKOtv switched to a freemium model, where alongside free movies, subscribers to iROKOtv PLUS could access brand new movies, advertisement-free, for only $7.99 a month.

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