Despite many infrastructural and economic hurdles, entertainment media industries are burgeoning in West Africa. Today, the Nigerian cinema market–“Nollywood”–is the second largest in the world in terms of the annual volume of films distributed behind only the Indian film industry. And an era of digital distribution has empowered content created in Lagos, or Accra, to spread across geographic and cultural boundaries. New commercial models for distribution as well as international diasporic networks have driven the circulation of this material. But so has rampant piracy and the unofficial online circulation of this content. What innovations are emerging from West Africa? How has Nigerian cinema in particular influenced local television and film markets in other countries across West Africa, and across the continent? What does the increasing visibility of West African popular culture mean for this region–especially as content crosses various cultural contexts, within and outside the region? And what challenges does West Africa face in continuing to develop its entertainment industries?
Derrick N. Ashong leads the band Soulfège, a group that produces an eclectic blend of hip-hop, reggae, funk, world beat and West African highlife music and has been featured in such major media as MTV Africa and NPR. Also known as DNA, which is the name of his blog, Ashong hosted Oprah Radio’s The Derrick Ashong Experience and Al-Jazeera English’s social media TV show The Stream.
Colin M. Maclay is the managing director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. Both as co-founder of Harvard’s International Technologies Group and at Berkman, Maclay’s research pairs hands-on multi-stakeholder collaborations with the generation of data that reveal trends, challenges and opportunities for the integration of communications technologies in developing communities.
Fadzi Makanda is a business development manager in the New York office of iROKO Partners, a distributor of African–and particularly Nollywood–entertainment. Makanda leads the development and execution of U.S. advertising sales strategies for the company.
Moderator: Ralph Simon is founder of the Mobilium Advisory Group, which studies innovation in mobile usage in such countries as Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa. He has served as an executive at Capitol Records, Blue Note Records, and EMI Music, and he co-founded the Zomba Group with Clive Calder of South Africa. Simon earned the title “Father of the Ring Tone” when he created the first ring tone company in 1997.