By Franklin Akporuno
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State is obviously passionate about youth empowerment and job creation. Aside the various initiatives in the state to engender employment among the populace, Okowa is pushing his quest for empowerment into the entertainment industry. He is building a film village in Ugbolu, on the precinct of the capital city of Asaba.
The Delta Film Village and Leisure Park is an ambitious N5 billion project expected to be delivered by the first quarter of 2021. When completed, it will add more fizz to the nation’s fast-growing movie industry, popularly called Nollywood. The film village will not only create jobs, direct and indirect, for Deltans and Nigerians at large, it will help bolster the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
Globally, entertainment – from sports to music to movie – is the largest employer of labour. It has grown to become a huge revenue earner and weapon of culturisation. Last year alone, the global entertainment market exceeded $100 billion for the first time ever in revenue generation. The Motion Picture Association in its report on the international box office and home entertainment market said that the industry reached $101 billion in revenue.
This is the market that Okowa is looking to claw into in a manner never witnessed in Nigeria. With Covid-19 putting a sludge on global economic activities, some persons have predicted a shortfall in the 2020 revenue takings. But this argument is countered by those who argue that covid-19 and its attendant lockdown may have pushed up movie consumption through digital channels as people explored ways to fight boredom through movies streamed on digital devices. These days, rather than go to cinemas, the cinema comes to you in your office, bedroom and living room. It’s the digital mix, and entertainment is one of the biggest beneficiaries.
Digital innovations have in recent years given a boost to home entertainment, driving 14% of overall growth. Statistics shows that 85% of children and 55% of adults now consume TV shows and films on mobile devices. “The film, television, and streaming industry continues to transform at a breakneck pace, and this report shows that audiences are the big winners,” said Charles Rivkin, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association.
“Most importantly, our industry continues to innovate and deliver great storytelling for movie and TV fans — where, when, and how they want it,” Rivkin said.
Going forward, this marriage between entertainment and technology means that the film industry will continue to experience growth and will continue to enjoy more appeal from all strata of society. This explains why Okowa’s avowal to commit to the nations’ film industry through a film village is both apposite and timely. It’s coming at a time Nigeria is strongly deepening her digital economy with increasing broadband penetration. More instructively, Delta State produced several Nollywood greats such as Richard Mofe Damijo, Zeb Ejiro, Stella Damasus, Omoni Oboli, Rachael Oniga, Hanks Anuku, Uti Nwachukwu and Emeka Ossai. Others of blessed memory are Justus Esiri, Enebeli Elebuwa and Sam Loco Efe.
The Delta film village will not only create jobs for those in value chain of the film industry. It will generate bigger traffic volumes for telecoms companies and allied valued added services (VAS) providers. It will also boost the state’s hospitality sector. Hotels and eateries in the state will profit from the expected spike in human traffic to the state from all over the world especially with the growing interest by actors and investors in Nollywood from outside the country. Besides, it will enhance professionalism and standard as basic equipment, ambience and props for filmmaking would be easily sourced. This will foster infrastructure-sharing and create its unique economies of scale. An aggregation of this will result in an increase in the state’s IGR and overall increase in the contribution of the movie industry to the nation’s GDP.
Recently, the leadership of the Association of Movie Producers of Nigeria (AMPN) paid a courtesy visit to the governor. The group commended Governor Okowa for the world class film village. The movie producers were in Asaba for their Annual General Meeting and they seized the opportunity to visit the Governor to thank him for being the first Nigerian to provide the industry with a well-structured base that can compete with those of their international counterparts.
Asaba has been the preferred movie-making nest of the brightest and the best of Nollywood. The historical totems of the capital city, its tranquility and beautiful landscapes and sceneries, have attracted producers of Nollywood movies these past years. Okowa is adding to this by building a befitting film village which will enhance movie production both in terms of form and content.
While hosting the movie producers, Governor Okowa assured them of his administration’s partnership to make Delta a tourism destination and the production hub of Nollywood movies. “I express my excitement that you are mainly Deltans because Deltans have done quite a lot in the movie and entertainment industry,” he remarked. “We thank you for returning home to conduct your elections, having contributed a lot to Delta. I am glad that you have gone to the Film Village being developed alongside a pleasure park. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the pace with which we intended to work, and we could have done better than it is now, but hopefully, it will be completed by next year. We are aware that most movies in Nigeria are shot in Delta and Asaba to be precise.
“The importance of the entertainment industry in job creation and economic development of Delta State cannot be over-emphasised. We will create a functional movie village. With time we will partner with the private sector to manage the film village.”
Obviously, a major attraction for Nollywood players to Asaba is the peace in the state. Okowa has deployed the instrument of development and active youth engagement to sustain peace in Delta state. This has opened up Asaba to non-Deltans some of whom have not only taken up residency in the state but have established fast-growing businesses to add to the socio-economic well-being of the state.
The president of the movie producers’ group, Ralph Nwadike, was overtly excited when he declared that the movie producers were delighted with the world-class film village especially with its one-stop shop concept where everything movie from idea to execution could be effectively carried out. He added that Nollywood can now proudly declare Asaba as their home.
“We have been to the Asaba Film Village project and now we can boldly say we have a home and a base here. I am commending you, Mr. Governor with every zeal and zest, because we are indeed coming to the promised land. I say this with all seriousness because wherever we go all over the world as filmmakers, they ask us, ‘where exactly is Nollywood?’
“Though Nollywood started from Zeb Ejiro’s office, there’s no place to say this is Nollywood, like they have the Bollywood and Hollywood in India and America. So, Asaba Film Village will be our own Canaanland. It is a promised land, it is not just a Nollywood city, it is a place where we can call home and we are really proud of what Governor Okowa is doing there,” he said.
The implication of the Delta Film village is that next time Nwadike or any other Nollywood icon is asked the question: where Nollywood is, they will readily answer, “Nollywood is in Asaba, Delta State.”
From 2021, Asaba will become the hub of Nollywood, reputed to be the second largest movie industry in the world in terms of film output, surpassing Hollywood in the United States and second only to Bollywood of India. Nollywood is said to produce about 50 movies per week usually on a low budget yet unmatched anywhere in the world. It is a testimony to the creativity, resilience and innovative elan of the Nollywood producers.
Although its revenues are not on par with Bollywood’s and Hollywood’s, Nollywood still generates an estimated $590 million annually. For an industry that rolled off from ground zero without government support in any way, the revenue profile is still something to cheer.
Entertainment is ranked as the second largest employer of labour in Nigeria only next to agriculture. With more corporate sponsorships, professionalism, and infrastructure like the Delta Film Village, coupled with Nigeria’s peculiar youth population bulge, the revenue profile is expected to shore up in the coming years.
The film industry is one of the key sectors identified in the Economic Recovery and Growth plan of the Federal Government of Nigeria with projected export revenue of over $1billion by 2021 and far more in subsequent years.
When Okowa wrote the Delta State House of Assembly seeking its approval of the sum of N5 billion to build the Film Village, he said that the project, when completed, would not only boost the revenue base of the state, but would also create jobs for youths in the state. He explained that the state government would provide 30 per cent of the funding of the project, while investors would provide 70 per cent.
Job creation is at the core of Okowa’s leadership and it was of no wonder that the entire members of the State Assembly gave their support for the programme expected to revolutionise the nation’s movie industry and place Delta State on the global map as the home and hub of Nollywood.