logoAfrica has become the next economic block that will save the world, as international investors are trooping to the continent to up their financial margins. The exposure of the continent is partly enhanced by the African film industry and African Movie Academy Award (AMAA) is the blue blood in the film industry. Daniel Obi assesses the AMAA link in this write-up.

Many factors, including overt and covert causes, have combined to push Africa as the world's new economic frontier. Apart from the economic slowdown in Europe and referrals from some multinationals already existing in Africa, players in the entertainment industry have quietly exposed the continent as a land of potential, affable and accommodating. Many foreigners, including the recent 27-man Irish delegation, to the continent and Mika Hakkinen, two-time Formula 1 champion, have accepted that Africa and its people depict richness and open alms. This demonstrates that the land is not full of wars, hunger and strife, as foreigners are safe against hitherto beliefs.

It is not by accident therefore that international investors have found the continent ideal for business. In the recent time, most countries in the continent have had a mark-up in Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). For instance, Nigeria's FDI has grown astronomically in the last 10 years, so also is Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

"FDI inflows into Nigeria have been growing enormously over the course of the last decade: from ?$1.14 billion in 2001 and $2.1 billion in 2004, Nigeria's FDI reached $11 billion in 2009," according to a report quoting UNCTAD. This makes the country the 19th greatest recipient of FDI in the world, the report noted.

The continent's negative picture in the face of some international community is unfortunately informed largely by the existing information dichotomy between the West and Africa. To an average African, even if he does not possess his country's international passport, much more visiting international airport, any country in Europe is a haven - power of information flow.

But in the recent time, Africans have found another competitive means, apart from cable TV networks to tell their stories. It is in film productions that countries like the US, UK and India have used to project themselves to the world as lands flowing with milk and honey. This served dual purpose for their economies – nation brand building and foreign exchange earnings.

African entertainment industry – the birth of Nollywood

About 20 years ago, a few Nigerians attempted to offer the local market that was inundated with foreign films something new spiced with local culture. They began the production of films in local culture. Initially, there was perhaps apprehension on whether the market will accept it or not, but the idea was wholly accepted. This is the beginning of the birth of Nollywood industry, which today has saved countries like Nigeria huge foreign exchange.

Today, the birth of Nollywood has given impetus to the budding of local films in other African countries, depicting African rich culture hitherto regarded as uncivilised due to overwhelmingly acceptance of European culture. "Riding on the back of the success of that first attempt, other film producers followed suit, leading to the birth of a multi-billion naira industry that is today considered second only to agriculture in the employment of labour in Nigeria," says an analyst.

In his article published in Nigerian Orient News, Frank Odumodu, an analyst, quoted statistics from Africa Movies News, BBC and New York Times that put the estimated annual revenue of the Nigerian film industry at $590 million. "Euromonitor International and Reed Exhibitions, organisers of the World Travel Market, a global event for the travel industry, predicted in their November 2012 report that Africa's projected 5.2 percent GDP growth rate in 2013 would be due in part to the popularity of the Nigerian film industry, which it said would also attract domestic and regional tourism," according to Odumodu.

Reports say that "Nollywood has taken a giant stride to become an industry to reckon with, both within and outside the country. In just few years, the industry has grown to become the second largest in the world, generating $286 million per year for the Nigerian economy."

Africans presently export films and this has unarguably given the continent a new face. Europeans, including their investors, now see Africa differently with convinced mind that good things can truely come out of Africa. Investors are now coming in droves.

The collaboration between African actors, actresses, and play writers in film production has assisted to deepen the African culture and led to much acceptance of African movies. Charles Aigbe, head, marketing/corporate relations, UBA, had reiterated this view when he said recently that "films remain a great platform to showcase Africa's rich cultural heritage to the world." Aigbe, who was speaking on the bank's support for Nigerian and African cinema, said his "bank believes in the immense opportunities that the fast growing film industry provides for Africans, especially the youth."

Report by Doyin Adeoye and Ruth Olurounbi in the Tribune quoted Hala Gorani and Jeff Koinange formerly of CNN, as saying "Nigeria has over $250 million movie industry, creating some 200 videos for the home video market every month." This, they argued, had generated abundant revenue into the nation's coffers.

In their study of Nollywood as a tool for reshaping Nigerian image and diplomacy, Cornelius Aghadiegwu and Uchenna Patricia, both of Mass Communication Department of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, posited that Nollywood had grown so strong in recent times to command both local and international audiences and also had the capacity to provide a platform for the positive promotion and projection of her image and values in the international community, thereby influencing relationships among them.

Nollywood is no doubt the largest black-owned instrument to portray African culture in absence of large cable network.

AMAA, backbone of African film growth

The AMAA has the objective of recognising excellence and professionalism in the African film industry. Ten years ago, the initiators of AMAA through hindsight believed that African film industry will play such significant role in the growth of individual African economies. They set out to properly shape the film industry to boost its socio-economic impact by motivating, encouraging and rewarding the practitioners' excellence.

Though the initiators are still struggling to deepen the concept of AMAA among state governments, corporate organisations and some individuals, but when its objective is juxtaposed with American Oscar Award, Nigeria Media Merit Award or any other international recognised awards, one would begin to appreciate the subtle but consistent contribution of AMAA to African film industry and to the African economy.

Some state governments especially are really not seeing the tourism and branding benefits from AMAA because they are still feeding fat from Abuja ‘feeding bottle.' It is time for them to look ahead and tap the benefits and position themselves early for its economic advantage.

Peace Anyiam Osigwe, the CEO of AMAA, who strongly believes in encouraging African film producers and actors and actresses to greater heights, says "nobody is going to re-write African history unless Africans. And one of the ways to this is through creation of good films. Those who cannot read can watch and listen in local languages."

The recognition has also become very important because "for any business, the key to survival in the increasingly challenging business environment is to be quality driven and obsessed with creating value for consumers. Such organisations will not just pursue world-class standards, but aim to create such standards in recognition of globalisation knowing full well that competition is a zero-sum game." If African films fail to meet people's expectation, then foreign films will again take over the local market with its economic and social implications.

"AMAA has become a platform to create movies that the world will pay attention to. The body has been able to push African story to the international scene," says AMAA ambassador and Ghanaian actress, Lydia Forson, who won the Best Actress in a Leading Role at AMAA in 2011. She urges Africans to offer their support for the award, saying it would further reinforce the strength of the continent in the eyes of the world as far as film making is concerned.

"AMAA is ours and we must support it. There are challenges here and there which people have talked about but for me AMAA is bigger than any logistics problem and the advantages and benefits are huge. AMAA will continue to get better and overcome some of the challenges. As practitioners in the industry we must be united and support our own. In 2014, we must prove to the world that we have a say in our affairs. AMAA belongs to all of us so we all have a responsibility to AMAA and the world," she says.

It was in recognition of its role as backbone of African film industry that African Union endorsed AMAA. Imagine the African film production without AMAA, it will be synonymous with cars produced by children.

Today, the growing African economy and the tourism sector enhanced by the film industry, which is subsequently pushed and encouraged through training and rewards by AMAA, has assisted in boosting the African country individual economies.