Africa has long shifted from consuming mainly foreign movies to now valuing its local productions. The new crop of African filmmakers is determined to tell authentic African stories for Africans. In many African countries, movies have become a way to celebrate African cultures and everyday life, while also providing quality entertainment.
5 largest film industries in Africa 2023
This article explores countries with some of the biggest movie industries in Africa when it comes to the number of movies produced annually.
On average, Africa produced 5,500 films per year, according to the source's report conducted between November 2020 and May 2021. Nearly 3,400 films were produced annually in West Africa, a number boosted mainly by the low-budget productions from Nollywood, the Nigerian cinema industry. Similar productions have been spreading also through Kenya and Ethiopia. Consequently, around 1,500 movies were produced per year in East Africa.
Nollywood sits top of the biggest film industry in Africa in terms of the volume of movies it produces yearly, as well as value, revenue, and popularity.
Arts, Entertainment, and Culture are arguably some of Nigeria’s most prominent exports. Whether in music, with Afrobeats, or in movies, with its local movie industry dubbed ‘Nollywood’, Nigeria has over the years capitalized on creative art.
In 2021, Nigeria accounted for 97% of the box office revenue in anglophone West Africa, making about 4.85 billion NGN (11.2 million USD). On a global scale, Nollywood beats Hollywood and is second only to India’s Bollywood in terms of the annual number of films produced. This is partly because of the many low-funded productions the industry churns out.
This is not to say there were no high-quality productions before then.
However, in more recent years, there has been a more notable switch to high-quality productions which garner international acclaim and have even been deemed fit to be featured on international movie streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime
As with many other things except for the jollof wars of course Ghana's Ghallywood comes in second with 600 films produced annually as of 2021. The West African country rakes in an estimated 1 million USD in box office revenue every year.
Ghana and Nigeria have in many collaborations produced breathtaking films, telling real African stories the authentic way. Ghanaian movies have also experienced a similar improvement in production quality.
However, the Ghanaian movie industry’s history is a bit more complex. The industry started as the Gold Coast Film Unit and was used as a tool to control the narrative in favor of the British during the colonial era. During this time, Ghana was said to make the most sophisticated films in Africa.
In recent times individual filmmakers have taken the stride to produce independent Ghanaian content with funding from individual wallets.
Kenya & Tanzania
The two East African share the third spot for the biggest movie industries in Africa, with an estimated 500 film productions annually as of 2021. However, Kenya has the larger box office revenue of the two 4.9 million USD for Kenya and only 0.7 million USD in Tanzania, according to 2018 data.
Kenya’s box office revenue is expected to grow to 6.4 million USD in 2023 while Tanzania’s is only expected to grow to 0.8 million USD.
Due to the country’s picturesque landscape and abundant wildlife, Kenya has been a choice location for shooting numerous international documentaries. Locals would also often produce films documenting the poverty experienced by people in the main cities, however, there was a shift in the 2000s as Kenyan filmmakers started producing more feature films based on pop culture. The Kenyan film industry also served as a propaganda tool for the British during colonialism.
The Tanzanian film industry was mostly government-run with films being used for instructional or educational purposes. Numerous nature documentaries had also been shot in Tanzania.
The modern Tanzanian film industry mostly produces low-funded films with short schedules called ‘Bongo films’
Swahiliwood scored a major win this year as the first-ever Tanzanian movie, titled ‘Binti’, landed on Netflix. The award-winning film has opened the door for more quality Swahiliwood productions to feature on the mega streaming platform.
Uganda is one of the fastest-growing movie industries in Africa and the fifth-biggest movie industry by annual production volume. The 2005 film ‘Feelings Struggle’ is often credited as the first Ugawood movie.
The Ugandan film industry is rather unconventional, with Video Jokers being an essential part of the cinema experience. These video jokers translate the dialogue of movies shown at video halls and add their humorous commentary.
Many of Ugawood’s films are low-budget productions made with DIY equipment, while some are funded by NGOs through cultural grants. Movies with impressive production quality have also emerged in more recent times.
Ugawood has a knack for telling thought-provoking African stories, with titles like ‘The Girl With the Yellow Jumper’ and the critically acclaimed ‘Queen of Katwe’ – although the latter was an American production which was based in Uganda and used mainly Ugandan acts. Uganda’s film industry still has a long way to go compared to its East African neighbors, but it is for sure well on its way to being a powerhouse on the continent.
The most popular country in Africa steadily comes in as the fastest-growing industry with compelling storytelling and quality production.
With more support from Africans within and outside the continent, Africa’s local film industries could see astounding growth in the years to come.
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