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Special Contribution
Nigerian Nollywood: A Positive Tool for Korea-African Cultural Diplomacy
By Amb. Desmond Akawor
Nigerian Embassy in Seoul
Nigerian Ambassador to Seoul Desmond Akawor

The Nigerian movie industry, known as Nollywood has arguably, been a tool for transforming and preserving African culture despite the forces of globalisation. For example, Nollywood uses indigenous languages to tell African stories. Other African countries have followed in the footsteps of Nollywood by producing movies on video. This paper examines Nollywood in the context of the on-going debate surrounding the role of cultural diplomacy between Korea and Africa in promoting given development, especially in disseminating and establishing good development practice.

Social Transformation

2. Nollywood has brought about social transformation in Africa, especially in terms of film and entertainment. The Africa Movie Academy Awards is known for recognizing professionals in Nollywood and the African film industry for their excellence. Similar awards also take place in the Diaspora. An example is the Nigerian Entertainment Awards, which is held in the United States every year to recognise Nigerian and Pan-African artists and professionals in Nollywood. In addition, social media is a prominent arena where Nollywood issues are being discussed, critiqued and promoted. In these ways, Nollywood has practically contributed to social change and transformation in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

Economic Transformation

3. Nollywood is the second-largest sector of employment in Nigeria besides agriculture; it has sales of between USD 200 million and USD 300 million per year. Nollywood produces over 2,000 films annually. This makes it the second largest film industry in the world, second to Bollywood in India and ahead of Hollywood in the US.

4. In the Americas, Nollywood movies have grown in popularity over the past 10 years in the English-speaking Caribbean island-nations, such as Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago. They are also regularly available in the Latin American country of Guyana.

5. Furthermore, Nigeria’s film industry has helped to change stereotypes about Africa by highlighting its culture, norms, creativity and hospitality. In so doing, it has influenced the willingness for potential travellers to travel to Africa, by attracting domestic and intercontinental tourists. This Nollywood-driven tourism has had an impact on other non-film sectors, such as the hospitality and transportation industries. It has been a vital and visible source of job creation. The Nigerian Government therefore takes an active role in bolstering these private initiatives in entertainment as an integral part of the nation-branding initiatives. This includes funding the industry, building infrastructure and providing publicity and other support for the industry.

Cultural Collaboration Between Korea And Africa

6. Over the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of close development cooperation collaboration projects between South-Korea and Africa. Yet, South Korea has fallen far behind its giant neighbours in developing relations with Africa. Of the 46 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Korea maintains diplomatic missions in only 17 nations, while China operates missions in 43 and Japan in 25.

7. The collaboration of Korean actors and Nollywood therefore presents an opportunity for Republic of Korea to position itself as a significant cultural player across the entire African continent. Korea's success can be modelled into actionable stories of transformation from poverty to affluence thereby spreading a mix of the Saemaul Undong doctrine as well as the concept of a "creative economy" through Nollywood.


8. It is generally believed that China's amazing exploits in Africa today, was not without the pioneering revolutionary influence of its movies actor popularly called Bruce Lee who died about 40 years ago. Korea also has its own development experience to share with African countries and some, indeed, refer to Seoul’s experiences in discussions, rather than the much larger emerging great power China.

9. Africa and Korea therefore need a blend of their movie actors. Cultural diplomacy certainly has a place in promoting development policies between Korea and Africa and there is the need to explore this new insight in disseminating and exporting good development practice. Moreover, it is a veritable vehicle for (re)constructing new cultural identities and expanding the sponsoring nation's perceived place in the world.

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