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Problem of Nollywood is not movie production but distribution – Mary Onyinye Okeke

…Says, “ We are going to be telling the untold story of Africa”

By Juliet Ebirim

Mary Onyinye Okeke is an entrepreneur and humanitarian married with four children. A 2008 graduate of Biochemistry from the Lagos State University, the 33-year-old real estate mogul is the Managing Director Akwa-Amaka Productions – an offshoot of the Light Givers Humanitarian Foundation.

In 2019, Mary became a member of the Board of trustees of The Light Givers Humanitarian Foundation. She pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating to various charitable organizations. She has also championed several community projects through The Light Givers Humanitarian Foundation where she hold the position of Secretary General. In this interview, she talks about Akwa-Amaka Production – her new movie/TV production outfit and distribution channel among other issues; Read on…

How and when did you launch Akwa-Amaka Production?

Akwa-Amaka Production is about four months old. It was launched in June 2019. It is a company aimed at promoting entertainment – music, movies, as well as discover, mentor, support and promote young talents. It’s a brain-child of the Light Givers Humanitarian Foundation. We want to use this channel to promote talent hunts, promote youths who need support to make a headway in the entertainment industry.

Since your launch, what has Akwa-Amaka Production been able to achieve?

Right now, we have two movies to our credit titled “Ezeudo” and “The Bishop” starring Zack Orji, Ngozi Ezeonu and other top Nollywood stars. It’s still a work in progress. I also made my acting debut in “The Bishop”. It was really exciting and interesting.

What’s your take on Nollywood generally?

I think there are a lot of untapped opportunities in the industry. Due to the increased demand for African content and which there isn’t adequate supply for, we want to make sure we bridge that gap within and outside Africa.

Production houses abound in Nigeria, what’s going to be unique about this particular brand?

We aim to improve on what’s already in existence. We want to create a niche in the entertainment world. There’s a level of humanitarian service attached to what we are doing. A lot of people are talented but they lack the financial capacity to push and promote themselves. We want to help in this area. We’ll also be improving on production quality.

We’ll be producing movies of international standards. We’ll also be doing a lot of premiering as most of our movies will be going to the cinemas. We also intend to own an online TV and distribution channel. Akwa Amaka is targeted at pushing Africa to the world via cinemas, TV, internet and so on. We are going to be telling the untold story of Africa.

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Do we hope to see you going to the rural areas and villages in Nigeria for your productions?

Definitely, we will be projecting the hidden, unique things about Africa to the world. We’ll be going from one African country to the other. As a humanitarian platform, we will be discovering and promoting new talents. If you have the dream to become an entertainer, this platform will help you achieve that dream.

When was your humanitarian platform – the Light Givers Humanitarian Foundation launched?

We kicked off officially this year. But before now, we’ve been doing a lot of humanitarian services, but we needed to have a platform, because just a few of us will not be able to impact the world the way we want to.

It’s a movement aimed at touching lives around the world. Light Givers is all about building a global community of like minds who are making impacts wherever they are, in the little way they can. We want to help change the standard of living for the down-trodden, as well as spread love and light.

In what ways have the platform been able to touch and impact lives so far?

Our major priority are those at the bottom of the pyramid – the very poor people. We are also looking at community development and human capital development. We’ve done medical outreaches, provided shelter… We’ve also given out scholarships to over twenty people to university level in the east. We’re also commencing a building project in Katsina – a hostel where we intend to keep the homeless picked from the streets.

In April, we organised a free health workshop in Akwa-Ihiala, Anambra state. We gave out free drugs to over 2500 people and provided free diagnosis for the sick. In June 2019, we gave scholarships to ten primary school pupils in Sokoto and Katsina to university level, under the supervision of the Arch-Bishop of Sokoto Arch-Diocese. This month, we paid the medical bills of some surgery patients in Okija, Anambra State.

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How is this funded? Do you have any form of external support?

Everything is solely funded by High Chief Stanley Chukwudi Obodoagwu. He is the chairman of the foundation.

What’s the major challenge you have encountered so far?

There’s no venture without sacrifice. It’s a new business and we are trying to get the best way to distribute our contents. In Nollywood, the problem is not production, but distribution – selling your content. There is also the issue of time management during production. The “African Time” thing…

How are you able to juggle your roles as a serial entrepreneur, humanitarian, mother and wife?

It’s the passion and love for what I do that keeps me going. I’m able to do all these by God’s grace. I also try to be the best I can be. Passion makes everything easy. Whatever you set your heart to do, do it passionately. It also helps when you love what you do. It’s been fun all the way.

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