All over the continent, from Nairobi to Casablanca, via Dakar and Abidjan, the entertainment business is exploding, and creativity is bubbling. In Nigeria, the Afrinolly Creative Hub brings technology and art together to embody this new productive, digital era. Interview:
The Afrinolly Creative Hub quite simply represents the future of African entertainment. While visiting Lagos in 2016, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that it was the beating heart of Nollywood (the world’s third largest cinema industry) because it allows young African talents to express themselves through the creation of content shared across the globe.
Kick-started in 2011, this unique creators’ space (a mix of the words “Africa” and “Nollywood”) is self-financed by the revenues generated by the brands that use it as a media technology agency. Winner of the first Google Android Developers Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge in the Entertainment category for its mobile app, Afrinolly organizes Africa’s largest short film festival, the Afrinolly Short-film Competition, and offers regular and intensive internships, like the recent Naija Storybuilders Bootcamp, led by Dayna Lynne North and Amy Aniobi, the authors and producers of the hot HBO series, “Insecure”.
To understand the importance of the hub to the entertainment industry, My Chic Africa met with Bobola Onigod, Afrinolly’s Creative Intelligence Director.
Where did the idea for Afrinolly come from?
Initially we wanted to create a platform where the emerging generation of Nigeria and Africa’s creative talent could express themselves. And we wanted to use technology to help improve Nollywood’s organization, i.e. institutionalize the industry’s best “global practices” and support young, digitally-focused directors. Today it’s the leading Nigerian creative space open to directors, screenwriters, web and mobile developers, and special effects specialists alike. We sincerely believe that technology can help creatives do more with low budgets here in Africa than they could in Europe or the United States.
How does the hub influence Nigeria’s creative scene today?
Afrinolly has become a training centre for today’s new creative talents. It offers real support for those looking to develop ideas. It’s a sort of think tank for the entertainment industry. And we facilitate networking opportunities for content production and distribution professionals in Nigeria, Africa and around the world. In partnership with Facebook, we run Nigeria’s “Facebook for Creators” training programme, which gives 5000 journalism students and content creators the Facebook and Instagram tools necessary to helping them grow and engage with their communities, as well as build their brands and promote their content. We also work with Henley Business School to help industry leaders make more of the opportunities offered to them by Nollywood.
Do you believe that mixing art and technology is the best way for African creatives to spread their message across the world?
Before the Internet, the world wasn’t exposed to African creativity. But today, someone in Lagos can create viral video content that crosses borders. Our music, our art and our content is shared around the planet thanks to technology. With it, Africa has managed to overcome years of anonymity to give its creatives the voices, means of expression and budgets they need to get their work seen around the globe. In Africa, the primary contact people have with the Web is through their smartphones, which is both a challenge and a blessing. Why? Because while the rest of the world is working on transitioning content to mobiles, Africa is already “mobile first” and sometimes even, “mobile only”. The field of possibilities in the mobile economy is boundless.
Could we say that Afrinolly is a good example of what Africa needs if it is to nurture its creative talents?
What I think we’ve managed to create with the hub and its creative cluster is a solution that’s adapted to Africa, and any developing country. Only a structure like ours can help content creators overcome the hurdles they face in developing countries. A structure like Afrinolly doesn’t just guarantee that creative talents survive, it allows them professional fulfillment. Every BRICS nation has adopted our model as national policy, to help encourage the creative industry, in the same way that the technology industry was supported before. In Africa, it’s the second greatest source of wealth after petrol, and I can say wholeheartedly that more and more people want African creativity.