She was named one of the 100 most influential people by TIME magazine in 2013, alongside Michelle Obama and Beyoncé. She has more than 1 million likes on her Facebook page. She is a United Nations World Food Programme ambassador and an Amnesty International activist. She is certainly one of the most popular actors most people outside Africa have never heard of.
Meet Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, the queen of Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry. With more than 300 films, and millions of video copies sold, she is living proof of Nigeria’s film industry dynamism. After decades of slow growth, Nollywood, one of the largest film industries in the world in terms of number of films produced, is a story of runaway success.
The industry currently accounts for N 853.9 billion ($7.2 billion), or 1.42 percent of Nigeria’s GDP. It employs more than a million people directly or indirectly. It is being touted as the country’s second-biggest source of jobs after agriculture. Based on the sheer quantity and quality of films being made, economic observers consider Nollywood one of the major planks on which to diversify the Nigerian economy. According to Roberts Orya, former CEO of the Nigerian Export-Import Bank, a development bank owned by the federal government, Nollywood generates at least $590 million annually. That is still a small number, given the scale of Nigeria’s economy and its population, but the industry is making a difference.
According to Charles Awurum, actor and producer, the impact of Nollywood on Nigeria is there for all to see. “If for nothing else, Nollywood has created thousands of jobs for so many Nigerians. The industry is open to all who are talented in all areas of the motion picture industry. It has drastically prevented and reduced the crime rate in the country, put food on people’s table—and the multiplier effect is tremendous. It is an industry that if given the enabling environment will be the country’s number one revenue earner. It has improved the lifestyles of Nigerians,” he said.