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The Fortune And Fury Behind Nollywood

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There is a slight nip in the air as the sun rises on the horizon and workers join the frenzied rush-hour traffic on the Third Mainland Bridge to Victoria Island. Crawling along the Falomo Bridge towards the mainland, I am joined by Kunle (not their real name), a former ringleader in Nigeria’s lucrative piracy industry. We are on our way to Alaba International Market, the largest electronics market in Nigeria and, incidentally, where it all began for Kunle.

“This is big business. At the top of the food chain is the Igbo movie producers and marketers who control the distribution of all the movies,” says Kunle.

Alaba is typical of most Nigerian markets. The place is heaving with sellers vying for every inch of space available on the streets, forcing people to walk in a straight line, like soldiers going to battle. The ‘area boys’, who are the unofficial tour guides of the market, expertly maneuver through teems of people, shouting frantically to get the attention of potential customers. We stop at Alake Enterprises, a rundown shack selling the latest Nollywood movies and gospel CDs.

“Madam, we get brand new movies, I beg [you to] come inside,” says one of the vendors.

As we enter the dilapidated building, a wall appears out of nowhere adorned with the latest cinema releases.

“There are two types of movies here. Those at the front of the shop are the legal ones, which have been released in the cinema and have now made their way to DVD. What you are seeing at the back are the ones that are currently in the cinema and some that are yet to show,” says Kunle.

Alaba Market (Photo by Andrew Esiebo/Aljazeera America)

Hiring more than a million people, Nollywood is the country’s second largest employer, according to a United Nations report. The ability of film crews, using guerilla filmmaking, to shoot a full-length feature in a week, has made Nollywood a powerhouse in the world of movies.

The National Bureau for Statistics (NBS) estimates that the Nigerian film industry contributed about 1.4% to the GDP in 2013 and 2014, and employed over 250,000 people directly. According to the World Bank, Nollywood produces up to 50 films a week, surpassing Hollywood in volume. Subsequently, the rise in copyright crimes in the country grows alongside the Nollywood industry.

“A couple of years ago Kunle Afolayan’s movie, October 1, was pirated and sold on the streets for less than $3 before the movie’s premiere in the cinema. He spent $2 million producing that movie. Now tell me, how was he going to make his money back? How many cinemas do we have in the country to help him recoup that amount?” says Bose Oshin, Head of Productions at GAME Productions.

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The incident almost led to the writer and director boycotting Nigeria for good. In 2014, a week after the release of Half of a Yellow Sun, a film adaptation of the award-winning novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, film vendors were hawking pirated copies of the film in Lagos. According to Oshin, you can’t fix the problem without understanding why there is a leak in the supply chain cycle.

“Before a movie shows, they need to send a copy to the cinemas where it will make its debut. The pirates pay the workers in the cinema a lump sum of N1 million ($2,790) to steal the copy. For these culprits, this is more money than they would earn in a year, so the temptation is quite high,” says Oshin.

Kofi Ansah, an emerging Ghanaian movie producer looking to have a piece of the lucrative Nollywood pie, experienced this in what he calls his worst day in business.

“I literally used all my savings to shoot this movie and managed to secure some top stars from Nigeria. We were two weeks away from the movie premiere when I got a call from someone saying they had a copy of my movie and I should pay N5 million ($13,950) to prevent its release on the streets for one month. It was as if someone had just shot me in the stomach. We barely had enough to do our promotion and now we were being blackmailed by these thugs,” says Ansah.

He believes the leak was orchestrated by competing producers who do not want any new names to enter the hugely competitive, and often fickle, world of Nigerian cinema.

“We all use the same production crews so it is easy to get your hands on footage. I couldn’t afford to make the payment, so the movie was on the street before we could even do the premier and we lost all our investment. I ended up having to take the movie to other parts of Africa to try to recoup some of the money,” says Ansah.

Nollywood movies for sale in a market (Photo by Andrew Esiebo/Aljazeera America)

In the belly of the beast lies an ongoing war between the ‘New Nollywood’ producers and traditional ‘Asaba’ producers.

“New Nollywood does not make any money. They have the fame, the glitz and the glamour, and they do lavish launches in cinemas, but nobody goes to the cinema to watch a Nollywood production when Captain America is showing. Asaba, or old Nollywood, is where the money is made. Movies are shot on tight production schedules, usually about a week, and then the same movie is broken down into several sequels from part one to sometimes part 16,” says Kunle.

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Asaba movies are for the masses. Storylines are simple, humorous, and movies are mostly shot in the local dialect. The top actors in this sector are in such high demand that they sometimes shoot up to 10 movies a week, jumping from one set to the other.

“As soon as the marketers hear that a New Nollywood movie is about to hit the cinema, the whole gang is on high alert. Once the inside person is paid, and we get a copy of the video, we begin mass-production. Sometimes as many as 20 million copies are created and immediately moved by trucks to Onitsha, Aba, Alaba and Idumota, where agents are there to pick up and distribute to a network of street hawkers and shops in those areas,” says Kunle.

The mass production provides economies of scale, with DVDs as cheap as N100 ($0.30). Contrast this with the N3,000 ($8.30) for a cinema screening and it’s obvious why piracy thrives in Nigeria.

“This is simply a case of supply and demand. The demand is there because people want to watch the same movies that are shown in the cinema for a fraction of the cost, and so long as that demand exists, these pirates will always be in business and that is the unfortunate truth,” says Oshin.
To combat piracy, the Nigerian government established Project ACT Nollywood, with a N3 billion ($8 million) grant. In a press statement, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, says the proper distribution of movies is important if Nigeria is to win the fight.

But Ansah says it’s not that simple.

“Like any criminal organization, there are those at the top who make the real money and make all the moves. These people have a strong network and they work with the copyright owners or those who have been officially contracted to produce the legitimate DVDs of the new movies, so they have direct access to the source thereby hijacking the market,” he says.

“Piracy works with informal networks and to be honest, there is really no fear of punishment because you hardly hear of anybody who has been arrested on the grounds of video piracy. That is where the law needs to act. Instill a fear of imprisonment and people will behave accordingly.”

But this suggestion may be flawed.

“We have informants in the law enforcement agencies that give us a heads-up so we know all the plans they are making, which means we have enough time to react,” says Kunle.

For now, the clandestine networks continue to grow and as long as they have an insatiable audience looking for the lowest prices for the latest cinematic releases, it is unlikely that piracy in Africa’s largest movie industry will end.

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Entertainment

Harry And Meghan Need $3 Million-Plus To Be ‘Financially Independent.’ Here’s How They May Do It.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would like to “become financially independent,” they announced Wednesday—and that may have to happen sooner rather than later, as Prince Charles, Harry’s father, is reportedly threatening to pull the millions he gives them each year. How they plan to replace those funds remains a subject of feverish palace intrigue about which the couple remains mum.

But what is clear: By stepping away from their duties, they likely are no longer prohibited from earning income the way senior members of the royal family are, clearing the way for them to take real jobs. What will those be? And how much will they actually need to make in order to live in the style to which they’ve become accustomed?

Annual Costs: Roughly $3 Million A Year (Not Including Renovations)

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact amount that Prince Harry and Markle earn from the various royal mechanisms each year—and a spokesperson for the Sussexes did not respond to questions about on the couple’s finances—but 95% of their annual income comes from Prince Charles, Harry’s father, via the Duchy of Cornwall. A trust that consists of 131,000 acres of real estate and more than $450 million in commercial assets within the United Kingdom, the Duchy of Cornwall was established in 1337 to support the direct heir to the throne.

That estate paid a combined $6.5 million (or £5.1 million) to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton) and to Prince Harry and Markle in the fiscal year ending March 2019, according to the latest financial report. The funding for the princes and their families didn’t change much from 2018 to 2019, although both reports were prior to the birth of the Sussex couple’s son, Archie. Let’s assume the brothers split that income from the Duchy (though William and Kate, with three children, are likely taking a bit more). While the Duke and Duchess did not immediately surrender this income, reports surfaced Friday that Charles is threatening to cut them off completely.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex did announce that they will “no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant,” which we know covers an additional 5% of their income, and used for their official duties. It covers official business such as international tours, travel to official events and the upkeep of their homes and offices, and comes from about 25% of the revenue from the Crown Estate (£85.9 million or $112.2 million for the 2020–2021 fiscal year), a portfolio of investments controlled by the monarchy—though not by the royal family or the government—and includes properties across the United Kingdom. (For example, the Queen herself does not own Buckingham Palace.) 

In 2018 and 2019, the couple used money from the Sovereign Grant to travel across the world, from Fiji to South Africa, on official royal business. While the royal annual reports don’t detail how much the Sussex’s travels cost in total, their trip to Fiji and Tonga cost $105,000 (£81,000), according to the latest Sovereign Grant financial report. (While it may seem that travel costs could go down as the couple steps back from royal duties, they say they plan to split time between the British Isles and North America, which will lead to new expenses.) 

Based on what we know, we estimate the total of the couple’s funds from the Duchy and Sovereign Grants to be a (very conservative) $3 million—again, not including security costs. 

And that’s not including the cost of their home and renovations: The Sovereign Grant covered last year’s $3.12 million (£2.4 million) refurbishment of the Frogmore Cottage, the four-bedroom plus nursery home in Windsor where the couple lives when they are in England. The home’s maintenance began before the couple decided to move in and was covered by the Queen, under existing commitments to maintain the upkeep of certain historical buildings, while the couple privately paid for the furniture and decor. Even though the house is property of the Queen, the couple plans to continue using it as their official residence when they are in the United Kingdom—meaning less rent to pay. 

None of this takes into account the cost of their security, which is reportedly covered by the Metropolitan Police, and which the family is expected to continue to accept.  

With all of these expenses and their easy access to funds facing a precarious future, the questions remains of how, exactly, the couple plan to earn the millions that their lifestyle demands. 

What Could Make A Royal Gig: Books, Speeches, SponCon?

They do have some money to live off of: Thanks to her seven-year stint on the television drama Suits, Forbes estimates that Markle has a net worth of about $2.2 million. Prince Harry has money of his own as well, as he and his brother received the bulk of Princess Diana’s $31.5 million estate upon her death in 1997.  

But it is likely that they will join other royals, like Harry’s cousins Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, and actually take paying gigs (the former works in finance, while the latter works at an art gallery). While no announcements have been made as to how exactly the couple plans to make money, it would seem natural that they take up work in the entertainment and media fields. 

Markle has said that she was giving up acting for good once she joined the royal family; maybe this is an opportunity for her to change her mind. At the height of her acting career, she commanded up to $85,000 per episode of SuitsForbes estimates, a number that would likely shoot up thanks to her royal title if she decided to return to the screen.

But it is more likely that the pair will take up shop on the speaking and book circuit. High-profile speakers like former president and first lady Bill and Hillary Clinton can earn up to six figures per speech to corporations and universities, while even B-list celebrities like Jersey Shore’s Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi could command $32,000 per oration during the height of her fame. 

A hit book has the potential to earn the couple even more. A seven-figure advance is typical for celebrities like Amy Schumer and politicians like Elizabeth Warren, with some high-profile authors earning even more. In 2017, former president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama signed a record-breaking $65 million book deal with Penguin Random House, while Hillary Clinton scored a $14 million advance for Hard Choices in 2014, and Bruce Springsteen got $10 million for 2016’s Born to Run. 

There’s also talk that the couple, which favors new media and direct lines of communication with their fans, may even start a podcast, which could be a lucrative endeavor. Last year, advertising spend on podcasts reached an estimated $680 million, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, and that number is supposed to shoot up to $1 billion by next year.

And in the unlikely chance they’re ever interested in following the footsteps of the royal family of Calabasas, the Duke and Duchess could surely earn an enormous sum doing sponsored content on their widely popular (10.4 million followers) Instagram account. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and her half-sister Kylie Jenner earn up to $500,000 per post.

Of course, the details of the couple’s future, and their future earnings, are all in flux, as Buckingham Palace’s curt statement on the matter made clear. And the wording of their own statement made sure that they can work toward financial independence on their own time. One thing is for certain: It doesn’t seem as if the Duke and Duchess will be hurting for cash anytime soon.

By  Madeline Berg, Reporter, Forbes Staff and Deniz Çam , Wealth Reporter, Forbes Staff.

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Arts

Forbes Africa’s Best Photographs In 2019

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[Compiled by Motlabana Monnakgotla, Gypseenia Lion and Karen Mwendera]

Image 1:

Kabelo Mpofu, an entrepreneur, took over his mother’s shop in Meadowlands, in the South African township of Soweto. He is hopeful of making the family business a success despite big retail stores opening up in the townships and swallowing up the corner groceries.

Image 2:

Africa is the youngest continent in the world. Every year, South Africa observes June as Youth Month, honoring the anniversary of the Soweto Uprising on June 16. In this image, the country’s sprawling township of Soweto comes alive with youth dancing in the winter weather to local and international music at the Soweto International Jazz Festival, an annual confluence of history, art and culture.

Image 3:

Women hold up placards against gender-based violence during a ‘Shutdown Sandton’ campaign; this after a spate of brutal rape and killings in South Africa.

Image 4:

Car dealerships were among the businesses set alight in Johannesburg’s Jules Street, during the spate of xenophobia attacks in South Africa in August this year. The spark that fueled the raging fire began in Pretoria, the country’s capital, when a taxi driver was shot dead by a foreign national who was selling drugs to a youngster in the central business district.

Image 5:

Sibusiso Dlamini, the co-founder of Soweto Ink, works on one of his regular clients at his tattoo parlor founded in 2014 with his long-time friend, Ndumiso Ramate. In 2019, Soweto Ink held the fourth annual tattoo convention, and for the first time in partnership with BET Africa, to break tattoo taboos in Africa.

Image 6:

Mmusi Maimane, the former leader of South Africa’s opposition party, Democratic Alliance, is about to cast his vote in front of local and international media houses who had wrestled to get the perfect shot in his hometown in Dobsonville, Soweto, during the elections in South Africa in 2019.

Image 7:

The brother of South African journalist, Shiraaz Mohamed, begs for government intervention after Mohamed was kidnapped in Syria on January 2017 by a group of armed men. The group demanded more than $500,000 for his freedom.

Image 8:

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa with his body guards at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the three-day South Africa Investment Conference was held in November.

Image 9:

In a world that’s embracing new technology, inspiration is being found in bug behavior. The hard-bodied dung beetle is now key to robotics research, in Africa too. Astounded by this discovery early this year is Marcus Byrne, a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg who has been studying dung beetles for over 20 years. He holds up a metallic replica of a dung beetle in his hand in his office at the university.

Image 10: 

Mzimhlophe Hostel, a hostel among many others in Soweto, erupted with service delivery protests prior to the elections in South Africa. In the same vicinity, an informal settlement was also allegedly set on fire. Brothers Mduduzi (32) and Kwenzi Gwala (22), pictured, had arrived in Johannesburg looking for employment. They sold African beer, but their shack was set alight while they were still at church. They lost all their stock and possessions.

Image 11: 

A thrift market in the heart of Johannesburg’s central business district, not too far from a busy taxi rank, known for its pavement robberies. Despite the crimes, thousands of small entrepreneurs trade in this raucous market every day.

Image 12:

ANC, DA and EFF supporters dancing and chanting outside the Hitekani Primary School in Chiawelo, Soweto, South Africa, as they await South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to cast his vote in his former primary school. 

Image 13:

Tenants in the discarded Vannin Court in Johannesburg look on from their balconies as jubilation erupts on the ground floor.

Image 14:

Vestine Nyiravesabimana makes money weaving intricate baskets made of grass to feed her nine children in Kigali, Rwanda.

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Life

Colors For Mandela

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The world of comic books is dominated by stories from the West. Two South African brothers are helping reshape that narrative with a central character inspired by the iconic hero.

Nelson Mandela had his own following at the recent Comic Con Africa convention at the end of September in Johannesburg.

At the center of all the organized chaos at the event at the Gallagher Convention Centre attended by 71,000 visitors over four days was a comic book bearing the late South African president’s name created by brothers Phemelo, 28, and Omphile Dibodu, 25.

The comic book, Young Nelson, features an African superhero, for readers in the continent and beyond.

Co-founders of Rainbow Nations Comics, a black-owned comic book and publishing company established in 2018, the Dibodu brothers were born and bred in Rustenburg, known as ‘platinum city’, in South Africa’s North West province.

Far from their hometown, the duo were in the big city for the event, showcasing their creations to an adept audience – people dressed as superheroes, cyborgs and zombies – who crowded around their stand and were as colorful as the comic books they were thumbing through.

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“Wow, that looks cool, who is Young Nelson?” asked a curious bystander.

Phemelo was ready with his answers even as his brother assisted with more queries. 

“Young Nelson is a proudly South African black comic book inspired by the late Nelson Mandela,” responded Phemelo.

In front of him, on the table, a large poster of Young Nelson, featuring a young black male with the South African flag over his shoulders and a gold-colored map of Africa emblazoned on his shirt.

This day saw the launch of the very first issue of Young Nelson titled An Act of Kindness, for R20 ($1.3) a copy.

Phemelo, the writer, and Omphile, the illustrator, say they were inspired by Mandela and some of their own life experiences growing up.

“I think I wanted to pay tribute to the old man in a way that it would hopefully inspire others to look at him in the way that many South Africans see him,” says Phemelo to FORBES AFRICA.

In the story, ‘Young Nelson’ gets his nickname when he volunteers at a local boxing gym. The people watching him witness his skills and ability to solve problems, so they equate him to the young Mandela, who was famously a boxer in his youth.

“[The lead character] doesn’t like the nickname at first but once he sees the significance of it and his heroics, how they are taken up by the community to represent who they are, he takes the name and rolls with it and that’s his superhero name going forward with the series,” Phemelo explains.

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Young Nelson’s real name in the comic is actually ‘Thabo Mo Afrika’, inspired by South African president Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded Mandela.

“ ‘Mo Afrika’ is a generic surname [which] translated into English is ‘an African’. So I wanted to see every African seeing themselves in Young Nelson,” Phemelo adds.

The young writer’s plan is to take his product to bigger markets, but for now, the African comic industry is a tough market to capture for lack of any funding.

“Imagine getting paid for what you are doing. That would [make a] big difference. Once people realize that their art can be compensated, more of us will actually start creating content the world would want to start reading,” he says.

Bill Masuku, a speaker at the Comic Con event and who is also a digital artist, shares the same sentiments.

“In Zimbabwe, where I am from, it is pretty grassroots. Everyone is self-publishing and if you don’t really have a passion for it, the book won’t come out,” says Masuku, who has been a part of the African comic industry for over three years. He is the founder of Enigma Comix Africa, and creator of Razor-Man and Captain South Africa.

“As much as new creatives are coming out every day, what really makes the comic book industry is distribution. And seeing that [Young Nelson] has such widespread potential really makes me hopeful for where we are going,” says Masuku.

For comic books to thrive on the continent, they need a big financial push from publishers, distributors or investors, unlike any other medium.

The Dibodu brothers were fortunate to have been sponsored by the Rustenburg Herald, a weekly local newspaper in Rustenburg.

“The problem with creating by yourself is that you can only create at a certain rate and you do burn out. So you find people who have been making comics who have three or four issues out and it’s easy to forget about them as a consumer,” he adds.

Globally, platforms like Weekly Shōnen Jump in Japan make it easy for Japanese creatives to publish their work as the comic book and manga industry is thriving there, making it one of the best-selling magazines. Weekly Shōnen Jump has sold over 7.5 billion copies since 1968.

But the African comic industry has a long way to go.

Kugali, a digital platform founded by three entrepreneurs and friends from Nigeria and Uganda, is designed to help people find and share the best African narratives and comics. It is an entertainment company that focuses on telling stories inspired by Africans, offering much-needed exposure to young creatives such as Masuku and the Dibodu brothers. For now, the reception the Dibodus are receiving give them some hope.

“It’s been awesome and inspirational. I didn’t know people felt the same way as me. It’s amazing when people are [reading] the story of the character and people are saying ‘you know what, that’s what we need’,” says Phemelo. At the end of Comic Con, they managed to sell over 300 copies of Young Nelson.

“People are catching onto the culture. I think it might even grow bigger than the American industry only because I think we are a very artistic community… Whether you look at the hieroglyphics in Egypt or the cave paintings by the bushmen in South Africa, we draw,” he says.

He also plans to sell his comics to local book stores in the country.

The team is currently working on their next creation – a black African female superhero called Imbokodo.

“We are looking for new creators we can partner with and create our own justice league, our own Avengers, to actually have young kids in South Africa look at their heroes the same way Americans look at their heroes in the Comic Cons to come.”

Young Nelson is a refreshing reminder that not all heroes wear capes.

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