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Op-Ed

How piracy created and maintained Nollywood’s success

Jeffery Uzoukwu writes that piracy was actually good for Nigeria’s movie industry

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A man cycles past a billboard promoting the premier of Nollywood film "93 Days" in Lagos, Nigeria - AFP

If you ask anyone involved in the film business in Nigeria what the biggest challenges they face in the industry are, the answer would be a resounding word: piracy.

Several studies into the prevalence of piracy in the Nigerian movie industry have been reported, so much so that Nollywood has become synonymous with the dreaded P word. But, while piracy remains an issue in the industry that generates between $250 and $500 million per year, it is also a factor that contributed to not only the establishment of Nollywood, but also the maintenance of its success.

A brief history

It is no news that majority of Nigerians have been disenfranchised from formal networks of survival, a network which links them to the official world economy. Consequently, Nigerians have worked hard in creating a means of survival through the creation of informal networks. Simply put, formal networks refer to the extent to which industries are regulated, maintained and ruled by government and corporate bodies. Informal networks are industries that operate outside this sphere.

The disruption of formality to informality in the Nigerian film industry can be traced to the colonial days, where the British Colonial Film Unit created a marketing infrastructure in Africa. When the British government eventually left Nigeria in 1960, most infrastructures, including the film unit gradually collapsed because they did not maintain any link with Nigerian film industry, unlike their French counterparts in the Francophone African film industry.

The newly independent state created the national Nigerian Film Corporation. This struggled to stay afloat, thanks to the advent of technology – video cameras, DVDs, neo-liberal privatisation of the media landscape. The previously regulated media freed up to private bodies; government demonstrated a lack of interest in media, paving the way for piracy and unauthorised distribution network.

In a normal situation borne out of a functioning infrastructure, piracy is a criminal act, the unauthorised replication of an intellectual property. But in the case of Nollywood, it is a major factor that led to its success. What happens in a case of infrastructure’s failed promises of arranging and regulating? Piracy in this case, is an attempt at rearranging and reconfiguring these failed promises, because, as Nigerians say, ‘man must survive’. Piracy becomes a means of survival in a country where infrastructural irregularities is the norm.

Breaking the financial bondage

Kenneth Nnebue is a man famous for the classic Living in Bondage that pioneered Nollywood. Before venturing into filmmaking, Nnebue imported blank cassettes, which he used to pirate foreign films. He produced and distributed them locally through a system of mini shops and rental clubs. This informal networks of distribution of pirated films not only ensured that power and control were maintained by marketers, but it also sparked an idea in Nnebue.

After coming up with the story for Living in Bondage, he teamed up with fellow screenwriter Okechukwu Ogunjiofor and they presented the finished product to the director Chris Obi Rapu. Rapu was an ambitious filmmaker who wanted to shoot his own films. But this desire was crippled by the lack of funding and functioning film industry, because shooting on celluloid was, at the time, expensive.

Using the same business model as his pirated films, Nnebue set sail to Taiwan, where he purchased thousands of blank VHS tapes, which was used in making the film. It is true that a film made cheaply lacks in the quality of the finished product, but this did not impede Rapu’s desire to make his own film, nor did it restrict Nnebue’s commercial venture, his desire to get rich quick. It comes as no surprise then, that the film itself presents these themes, themes that explore the idea of quick fortune, of grass to grace, of the consequences attached to these fortunes. It is ultimately a film about the extent to which humans are willing to go for the acquisition of wealth and societal status. The plot is simple: wretched Andy uses his wife for money ritual, whereupon he is made to face the consequences.

Living in Bondage was popular amongst Nigerians not only because of its escapist themes, but also because it was the first film to offer an alternative to cinema culture with its ‘direct to VHS’ model. At a time of political and financial uncertainties in Nigeria, cinemas and cinema going culture died, permitting a retreat into the private sphere – the home. Nigerians had little choice but to embrace the only form of film entertainment available to them.

In this light, Living in Bondage became a bestseller when it was released in VHS. Even though it was shot entirely in Igbo language, it sold over 500,000 copies, kick-starting Kenneth Nnebue’s successful film career. He would go on to write and produce Glamour Girls, another best seller which was also shot in VHS. This form of filmmaking, release, marketing and distribution would inspire other budding filmmakers, or so to speak, business women and men, who saw filmmaking as a means of making quick money. It would carry on to the 21st century, building a name for itself, so that Nollywood would rank amongst the three biggest film industry in the world, including Bollywood and Hollywood.

Another idea:

If you’re looking for artistic African films, Nollywood is not the place for you. Look to Francophone African films.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central’s editorial stance.


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Op-Ed

Oil sensitivity set to intensify on conflicting themes

Oil markets are poised to remain highly sensitive and reactive to supply and demand side factors ahead of the OPEC meeting this month.

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Oil sensitivity set to intensify on conflicting themes | News Central TV

It has been a rollercoaster trading week for oil markets as investors tussled with conflicting fundamental themes pulling and tugging at the commodity.

Oil prices initially collapsed roughly 4 per cent mid-week thanks to an unexpected rise in U.S. crude stockpiles and a gloomy outlook for global oil demand. Bulls were later thrown a lifeline after geopolitical tensions in the Middle East rekindled concerns over potential supply shocks.

Oil markets are poised to remain highly sensitive and reactive to supply and demand side factors ahead of the OPEC meeting this month. With oil trading at depressed levels despite the recent rebound, OPEC+ may have no other choice but to extend supply cuts in an effort to prevent any further downside shocks.

Related: Nigeria foreign reserves rise in May; Gold Shines

For as long as Nigeria remains reliant on oil sales as a source of growth, the weakness in oil exposes the nation to significant downside risks. Should oil prices sink deeper into the abyss, Nigeria’s fragile recovery, exchange rate stability and improving sentiment will be under threat.

Looking at the technical picture, WTI Crude is trading marginally below $53.00 as of writing. Repeated weakness below this level is likely to encourage a decline towards $52.00 and $50.60.

Dollar steady ahead of retail sales 

dollar

The Dollar edged higher against a basket of major currencies today as trade tensions and global growth concerns supported the flight to safety.

While the Dollar is likely to remain supported by safe-haven flows amid persistent trade tensions, the question is for how long? With the Fed speculated to cut interest rates and recent economic data from the United States nothing to celebrate about, the Dollar is running on borrowed time.

Related: Nigeria’s week ahead: ECB meeting and Oil in focus

Much attention will be directed towards the latest U.S. retail sales figures on Friday which should offer insight into the health of the U.S. economy.

Should the report disappoint, the Dollar is likely to weaken as expectations mount over the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates this year.

Commodity spotlight – Gold 

Commodity spotlight – Gold

This has been a mixed trading week for Gold due to the growing sensitivity of global risk sentiment.

Related: Investors “Sell in May and Go Away” as risk aversion intensifies; Oil collapses

The precious metal has the potential to conclude the week on a positive note if the pending US retail sales report fails to hit market expectations. Looking at the technical picture, Gold is likely to test $1347 if $1324 proves to be a reliable support.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central TV’s editorial stance.

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Op-Ed

Nigeria’s week ahead: ECB meeting and Oil in focus

The week kicks off with the US ISM Manufacturing PMI for May which is projected to hit 53.0

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Nigeria week ahead: ECB meeting and Oil in focus
(File photo)

It will be another busy week for financial markets as investors grapple with trade tensions, Brexit, depressed oil prices and concerns over slowing global growth.

The week kicks off with the US ISM Manufacturing PMI for May which is projected to hit 53.0. Appetite for the Dollar is likely to take another hit if the PMI figures fail to meet market expectations.

Investors will be paying very close attention to Fed Chair Powell’s speech on Tuesday for fresh insight into the Fed’s monetary policy path. Investors will be paying very close attention towards Powell’s tone, given how concerns are rising over trade tensions potentially impacting the US economy. 

The biggest event risks this week will be the European Central Bank meeting and US jobs report on Friday. The Dollar could end up depreciating further if the US jobs report disappoints and fuels speculation over the Fed cutting interest rates this year. Naturally, this will be good news for emerging market currencies with the Naira falling into the category.

The economic calendar for Nigeria will be relatively light this week with the Stanbic IBTC Bank PMI scheduled for release on Thursday. Although the economic docket is light, external factors in the form of trade tensions, the Dollar and most importantly oil prices will impact sentiment towards the nation.

Falling oil prices are set to place the Nigerian economy in a difficult position. It is widely known that Nigeria relies heavily on crude oil exports which account for over 90% of exports earnings and over 70% of government revenues.

A sharp decline in oil prices could threaten Nigeria’s economic recovery while disrupting exchange rate stability. The potential decline in foreign exchange reserves from lower oil is likely to weaken the Naira, consequently translating to rising inflationary pressures. Consumers and businesses will feel the pain as inflationary pressures mount, while the drop in foreign reserves may complicate the Central Bank of Nigeria’s efforts to defend the Naira.

For Nigeria to insulate itself against such external risks, there needs to be a greater push on diversifying away from oil reliance to other sustainable sources of economic growth with Agriculture being one of several solutions. Elsewhere, Gold is glittering as geopolitical risk factors and concerns over slowing global growth accelerate the flight to safety.

This precious metal has turned bullish on the daily timeframe as is positioned to push higher should $1,300 prove to be reliable support. A vulnerable Dollar should inject bulls with enough inspiration to push Gold towards $1,324 in the short to medium term.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central TV’s editorial stance.

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Op-Ed

Nigeria foreign reserves rise in May; Gold Shines

Rising foreign reserves should provide the extra ammunition needed for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to defend the Naira

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Nigeria foreign reserves rise in May; Gold Shines

The Naira is set to witness further stability against the Dollar after Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves increased by $295.12m to $45.087bn in May.

Rising foreign reserves should provide the extra ammunition needed for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to defend the Naira against a tornado of domestic and external headwinds. Nevertheless, the nation still remains exposed to oil price volatility. It is widely known that Nigeria relies heavily on crude exports which account for over 90% of exports earnings and over 70% of government revenues. The fact that oil prices are sinking towards $55 today may lead to a fall in reserves in the coming months which has the potential to impact exchange rate stability, inflation, and economic growth.

Dollar blinks and loses hold on throne 

Dollar bulls were nowhere to be found today despite risk aversion accelerating the flight to safety. Market fears over Trump’s trade disputes with Mexico and China negatively impacting the US economy are weighing on the US Dollar.  While the Greenback still remains a prime destination of safety in times of uncertainty, the question is for how long? When keeping in mind how the Fed funds futures are currently pointing to a near 70% chance of a rate cut by September, the Dollar’s upside may be limited. In regards to the technical picture, the Dollar Index has the potential to sink back towards 97.50 if a weekly close below 98.00 is achieved.

Commodity spotlight – Gold 

Gold is extended gains on Friday amid news of unexpected tariffs on Mexican goods, while ongoing US-China trade tensions continued to support safe-haven demand. 

A depreciating Dollar is supporting the upside with prices trading marginally below $1300 as of writing. Market expectations over the Fed cutting interest rates in 2019 coupled with concerns over slowing global growth are likely to ensure Gold remains buoyed moving forward. Technical traders will continue to closely observe how Gold behaves below the $1300. A solid breakout above this point should signal a move higher towards $1324.

Oil set to register first monthly loss of 2019 

Oil is on track to register its first monthly loss of 2019 with WTI Crude sinking towards $55 thanks to Trump’s newly announced tariffs on Mexico and concerns over rising US gasoline stockpiles.

It is becoming increasingly clear that oil markets remain highly reactive to news around supply and demand factors. Such market dynamics will frame the upcoming OPEC meeting in June as a pivotal event that will shape Oil’s outlook for the rest of the year. Even if OPEC+ decide to extend their supply cuts into the second half of the year, this may be overshadowed by concerns over US-China trade tensions impacting the demand for oil as global grows.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central’s editorial stance.

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