Entertainment: A foundation for Africa’s success, by Fhulu Badugela

The entertainment sector provides a unique opportunity to uplift Africa’s people in various different ways. It can improve lives professionally, financially, psychologically, and ultimately even on a unified national level, writes Fhulu Badugela, Chief Executive Officer for MultiChoice Africa Holdings (www.MultiChoice.com).

Entertainment is primarily fun and enjoyable, but it also reflects and creates culture, which binds people together. It is created by scores of highly skilled, talented people working in several adjacent industries. In addition to this, entertainment fires passion and enthusiasm, which not only creates strong business demand, but it can also be used to inform, educate and inspire positive behavioural change.

As a business intimately involved in the production and distribution of African entertainment content, Africa Magic is invested in the industry in multiple ways. We have also gained a deep understanding of our audience, our people, the society in which we operate, and the overlapping relationship between these stakeholders.

The investment we have made in our industry has come to transcend the financial. When MultiChoice Africa established Africa Magic in 2003, it was certainly because we saw an opportunity in the market. But the sheer passion of our audiences across Africa made us appreciate the role our content plays in people’s lives, and the opportunities this creates.

It’s helped us to see a bigger picture. We’ve come to understand that through Africa Magic, its channels and its shows, we can enrich lives across the continent. We can grow, amplify and multiply Africa through the power of entertainment.

From where we started as a provider primarily of Nollywood movies through a single channel, we’ve grown to where we can deliver a wide range of content on seven highly popular channels.

Through shows like Big Brother Nigerian Idol– our longest-running TV series, or the wildly popular Battleground, Africa Magic has been able to produce more than 25 000 hours of authentic Nigerian content in English, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo, which we now broadcast to 42 African countries.

This pan-African penetration underscores Nigeria’s position as an African entertainment leader – in terms of consumption and production.

It’s a position the country is consolidating, through our growing global presence as a cultural force, through music artists like Wizkid, Burnaboy, Tems and Davido; writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ben Okri and Wole Soyinka; and our filmmaking output which is now appreciated across our continent and beyond.

It hasn’t been easy getting to this point, and we have faced numerous challenges along the way.

Among these was the marginalisation of African content – on the global scene, and on the continent. Even quality screenwriting and compelling productions were overlooked, and not given the respect they deserve.

To address this, discrepancy, and to provide a platform to celebrate African excellence, we launched the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCAs). Now entering their 10th year, the AMVCAs recognise the creativity, talent, and quality of African film.

The awards have played a direct role in inspiring professionals within the industry and elevated the production standards in our industry.

The show itself has also had an economic impact. As such, it forms a microcosm of our industry – driving economic growth, while it entertains, inspires and launches careers.

The recent AMVCA Impact Report 2013-2023 assessed the impact of the AMVCAs and found that every edition of the event created around 3 000 direct and indirect jobs. Over its nine previous editions, AMVCA has invested a total of ₦9 billion into the event, training, logistics and more.

The event has raised the stature of African film, improving standards, gaining international recognition, securing distribution partnerships, developing talent and growing the African economy. Today, 61.9% of film sector players agree that AMVCA has contributed to the growth of the African film sector, and 76.1% say that AMVCA has helped the international recognition of African films.

The AMVCAs are but a single expression of how the creative sector can capture the popular imagination and also make a direct impact on people’s lives.

This has been a great learning for us, and it has inspired us to launch further initiatives to improve lives through what we do, to “multiply to the power of entertainment through the power of our people”, as we like to say.

The MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) (https://MultiChoiceTalentFactory.com) is a continent-wide skills-development initiative with its West African academy in Lagos. Through training, masterclasses and industry networks, it upskills young filmmakers, and empowers them to direct their love for production and filmmaking into our industry.

Several MTF alumni are now already working in our sector, producing the content that has made Africa Magic an African success story.

As Africa Magic celebrates the 20th year of its existence, I remain convinced that the entertainment sector provides a powerful platform for building partnerships and global networks.

It all starts with telling African stories for African people. As we embrace our own narratives, and take ownership of how that narrative is shared, we unlock the power of Africa’s people. That is the true African Magic: our people.

Entertainment inspires our people, it grabs their imagination and it motivates them to aspire for more, for better. Across our sector – be it in the music, film, writing, television production or commercial space – we can drive social progress by taking African stories to the world.

Entire economies have been built upon that. Entire philosophies. Storytelling is indeed one of the rocks upon which African culture is founded. Let’s continue to build a new era of African success upon the same foundation.

Fhulu Badugela is Chief Executive Officer for MultiChoice Africa Holding

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