EP NowEP StoreAcademySupportCommunityProducts by Country
Blog Home

The Future of Streaming and Production Growth in Africa

Streaming services lead a promising wave of African productions set to entertain local and global audiences.
March 8, 2023

Joseph Chianese

“Is this the start of the golden age of African films?” an article in NewAfrican Magazine asks, and not without cause. The democratizing accessibility of production technology and the growing interest in global stories has led to a new wave of African content, along with the talent and film infrastructure to support it – and an audience eager to consume it.

Films like ‘Atlantics,’ ‘My Octopus Teacher,’ ‘Papicha,’ and ‘This is Not a Burial, it’s a Resurrection’ have entered and won international awards at film festivals including Cannes, TIFF, and Sundance.

The Nigerian film industry – nicknamed “Nollywood” – has now become one of the most prolific in the world, producing 2,500 films a year. And Afro-centric stories are being told in mainstream Hollywood films such as ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,’ which has grossed over $800 million worldwide, ‘The Woman King,’ ‘The King’s Horseman,’ ‘Nanny,’ and upcoming projects like the animated series ‘Iwájú’ coming to Disney Plus in 2023.

This new wave of content has positioned the continent for continued, and inevitable, future success. “Africa is probably the next biggest frontier for content creators,” says Juliet Asante, CEO of the National Film Authority of Ghana.

The current state of viewership in Africa

On the African continent, most films aren’t watched theatrically. Despite a continent-wide population of 1.5 billion people, there are only 1,500 screens according to a recent UNESCO report. It’s estimated to be the lowest ratio in the world, with one screen for every 790,000 people. “We rely on our home audience to watch our films,” Ugandan producer, Semulema Daniel Katenda, recently told The Guardian.

That’s why the arrival of video-on-demand (VOD) has provided an organic home for a new wave of African entertainment – film and television – even if access is a work-in-progress. Due to this obstacle, the number of subscribers to streaming services are not comparable to other regions. “Streaming numbers can only rise as far as internet penetration can go,” explains Asante. Tony Maroulis, principal analyst for London-based Ampere Analysis, conveyed a similar sentiment to The Hollywood Reporter, reporting “[Streaming] penetration is very low. In sub-Saharan Africa, it’s less than 1 percent.”

That is changing, however, as network infrastructure continues to develop, and audiences continue to expect more local content – which streamers are looking to increasingly provide to increase their audience. “If you are able to showcase local content, then chances are that you’ll grow subscription numbers because viewers want to access content that they can be able to relate to,” says Timothy Owase, CEO of the Kenya Film Commission.

Growing the number of productions and streamers in African countries

For a long time, Nigeria and South Africa were the dominant film industries on the African continent. The latter alone generates $750 million a year; $220 million of that coming from foreign productions. But now, with the budding content boom underway, 31 countries are observing an increase in productions thanks to a rise in investments in local content.

The current leader is Showmax, owned by the Africa-based entertainment company MultiChoice. Launched in 2015, the streaming service is accessible in almost all of the continent’s countries and has been investing in original African films and series. Recent analysis has shown African films and series represent 40 percent of what users are watching on their platform.

The-Woman-King-Viola Davis-Sony Pictures.jpg
Viola Davis and John Boyega in 'The Woman King' / SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT

US streaming companies like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney Plus are looking to follow in its footsteps. In addition to boosting their catalogues of local entertainment by obtaining licensing deals to stream content from Ghana, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria, American streamers are moving forward with original content as well.

Streamers like Netflix – which debuted its first African originals in 2020 – are making development deals with local creators and production companies, similar to those stateside made with Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes. These deals include the likes of John Boyega’s UpperRoom Productions, dedicated to non-English films set on the continent, and Mo Abudu’s Ebony Life Studios in Nigeria, which was behind the country’s first original Netflix series ('Blood Sisters'), and also has deals with the BBC, Sony Pictures Television, and AMC.

Individual projects are being financed too, in top markets – Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa – such as Netflix’s investing nearly $60 million USD in four productions in South Africa slated for 2022 and 2023.

We believe that Africa is one of the major creative centers for great storytelling that resonates around the world."

Of course, $60 million is modest compared to Netflix’s spend on North American content, but that’s partly by design, as the company and its competitors wait for streaming penetration to climb higher than 1 percent. “What they’re doing is trying to establish a presence in Africa so that when the market does take off, they’ll be the default service,” says Maroulis in The Hollywood Reporter.

Netflix is ahead of its competitors in that respect. However, others are not far behind. Amazon has signaled its ambitions by recently building up its local original development teams in South Africa and Nigeria. Disney Plus recently entered the market in six countries, and Paramount+ is launching in Africa in 2023; it’s likely that both will announce original content plans in the future.

As a result, the years ahead may very well realize the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers’ (FEPACI) belief that the industry – currently generating $5 billion in annual revenue – has the potential to bring in $20 billion.

Current challenges worth overcoming

There are some challenges to overcome before that achievement can happen. Infrastructure can be limited, with a low number of soundstages, as well as production and post-production facilities. Equipment can be expensive, and what limited crew there is, tend to not cross borders. What’s more, as we’ve seen in Latin America, the more local content streamers finance, the more existing resources can become strained and cause labor shortages.

As more dollars finance more local content, and build out local infrastructure in the process, international productions’ increased interest in using Africa as a shooting location can also meet hurdles as incentives remain rare on the continent. Northern countries like Mauritius and Morocco offer 30 and 20 percent rebates, respectively. South of the Sahara, South Africa stands out as a rare provider of incentives with 25 to 30 percent of qualifying expenditures.

Ini Dima Okojie_Blood Sisters_Netflix.jpg
Ini Dima Okojie in 'Blood Sisters' / Netflix

Countries like Ghana and Kenya, however, are looking to work with their governments to introduce incentives because of their importance. “By putting in place a film incentive package, we will enable more productions in the country. And we know the more production takes place in our country, the more benefits will accrue,” says Owase. Those benefits aren’t just economic, either. “When we have global productions taking place in our country, we give room to young filmmakers to access skills from the experienced practitioners who would be working on these big budget films from other countries.”

Many on the continent are aware there’s something of an uphill climb ahead. “Rome wasn’t built in a day. We will be getting there,” Dorothy Ghettba, Netflix’s Director of Series in Africa, told Variety. But the rewards of perseverance will be worth it. “We believe that Africa is one of the major creative centers for great storytelling that resonates around the world.”

Current changes in Streaming

At a time when Africa is approaching an inflection point in terms of broadband connectivity and affordability, and in the chase for scale in streaming, it’s the technology behind NBCUniversal’s Peacock that could be the additional boost needed for African SVOD service. Pan-African pay-tv operator MultiChoice announced on March 2nd that it will be relaunching its regional streamer Showmax with Peacock technology. NBCUniversal and the UK’s Sky Studios will take a 30% share in a new company that will redevelop and overhaul Showmax for African audiences.

Showmax has been feeling the intense pressure of streamers like Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+ scooping up subscribers across the African market, while HBO Max is yet to launch, and Paramount is still working on a Paramount+ rollout for the continent. For Showmax, subscribers will now have access to an extensive premium content portfolio, bringing African audiences the best of local and international programming. For NBCUniversal and Peacock, it’s a strategic move to capture one of the last emerging markets still up for the taking.

This type of consolidation signals more opportunities and bigger budgets for African content producers in the near future.

Related Content

UK Employment Law Changes Production Companies Should Be Aware Of

The UK government is considering a suite of legal changes which – if passed into law – will affect your...
Topic: UK

Meet the Unit Production Manager

Carrie Holt de Lama ('The Bear') and James McAlister ('Power Book IV:Force') on how the UPM guides the...

Production Incentives Update: November 2022

Don't miss these US incentive programs, accepting applications now!
EP Blog_SQUARE_Streaming service

Streaming Services Expand to Latin America and New Audiences

SVOD providers look to Latin America as a gateway to global stories and new subscribers
Western Canada

Production Tax Incentives in Western Canada Every Producer Should Know About

Alberta and Manitoba offer film and TV productions competitive tax incentive programs and versatile...

Film Industry Booms in Buffalo

Western New York draws top filmmakers with expanded tax incentives, new soundstages, and architectural...
EP Blog_SQUARE_New US Incentives 2022

New US Film Incentives Introduced in Arizona, Indiana, Florida, and West Virginia

As production continues to boom, new tax credits and other programs welcome industry to new locations...
Los Angeles Times logo-sq

Hollywood production in U.K. soars to record levels as crews complain of burnout

Spending on film and high-end television shoots reach record-breaking amounts as production activity...
EP Webinar Panelists - US Production Incentives Update

US Production Incentives Update: New and Expanded Programs in 2022

Film commissioners Colleen Bell and Sandy Lighterman, and production executives Jay Roewe and Ashley Rice,...
INDUSTRY NEWS_EP at Sundance Film Festival 2023

Entertainment Partners Hosted Incentives Panel at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival

EP's Joe Chianese led an expert panel of film commissioners from across the globe discussing incentives,...
INDUSTRY NEWS_SQUARE_uk flag_big ben

Update on UK Film and TV Tax Relief Consultation

A look at how the UK government aims to modernise existing tax reliefs to better serve film industry...
Topic: UK

Illinois’ Historic Film Scene Grows to New Heights with Expanded Tax Incentives

For over 100 years Illinois has supported the film industry and thanks to recently passed legislation, the...
Master Series: SB 1162 Panelists

SB 1162: What Studios Need to Know about the New California Pay Data Reporting Law

Learn about California’s new expanded pay data reporting law, SB 1162, and how it applies to the...
Topic: Legal

Production Incentives Update: February 2023

A look at changing film incentive programs across Illinois, New York, Puerto Rico, and Spain.

New York Gov. Aims to Boost Film Tax Credits to $700M As New Jersey Rivalry Heats Up

Since 2020, at least 10 productions chose to film in New Jersey or other jurisdictions instead of the...
EP Newsroom-Thumbnail-PGGB

Entertainment Partners and Netflix pledge £500K ($616K) to new PGGB Talent Development Fund

Entertainment Partners and Netflix have each pledged £250k ($308k) to form a new £500k ($616k) Production...

7 Things Production Finance Teams Need to Know for Budgeting in 2023

Mark Hammond, VP of International Finance & Ops, shares some of the key factors production finance teams...

New Union Agreement for Engaging Crew on UK HETV Takes Effect

Pact/Bectu 2023 agreement makes a number of key changes to the terms and conditions for engaging crew.
Topic: UK
Virtual Production

The UK Invests in Virtual Production as Content Boom Continues

The UK is doubling down on Virtual Production infrastructure; learn how and why they’re leading the charge...
Topic: UK

Hawaii 2023 Loan-Out GET Tax Rule FAQs

Productions seeking a Hawaii tax credit must withhold and report general excise tax (GET) on loan-outs in...

Meet the Music Supervisor

Kasey Truman ('Grey’s Anatomy,' 'The Sandman,' 'Fire Country') on the art of creating cinematic...
Doctor Strange

9 Hollywood Blockbusters Actually Filmed in the UK

Major US studios are taking advantage of what the UK has to offer, and clever set design and special...
Topic: UK

Production Incentives Update: December 2022

A look at changing film incentive programs across the US, Canada, and Czech Republic.

Hawaii Production Tax Incentives Notice

Hawaii announces new rules and procedures for reporting and paying loan-out HI General Excise Tax (GET)...

Budgeting and Forecasting Film and Television Residuals

What production accountants need to know to confidently budget and forecast for residuals.
Master Series Budgeting 2023

Budgeting for 2023: Federal, State, and Incentive Considerations

Learn what Federal and State payroll tax changes are coming in 2023, plus tips for setting up your...

UK Production Incentives All Producers Should Know About

Don't miss out on the UK's tax incentives, special programs, and national and regional funding...

Behind the Boom: Why the UK is a Hotspot for Production

Explore the generous industry incentives, talent, and infrastructure available to productions filming in...

The Production Accountant’s Guide to Year-End Payroll

A step-by-step breakdown of how to navigate pitfalls and fix production payroll errors for a smooth year...

US Production Incentives Special Alert: Hawaii

Hawaii amends Motion Picture, Digital Media, and Film Production Income Tax Credit

Preparing for Year End: Focus, Find, and Fix!

EP's payroll tax experts share best practices to identify and resolve payroll tax errors for a smooth year...

Special Report: Entertainment – A Hollywood Education

It’s the best of times and the worst of times for employment in the entertainment/streaming industry.

Special Report: Entertainment – Soundstage Gold Rush

Hollywood is experiencing an ongoing boom that fills its Los Angeles production hub to overflow levels.
EP Blog_SQUARE_Creating a development budget

The Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Development Budget

Before you start the filmmaking process, learn what basics you need to budget for to get your idea off the...
Changes to UK right to work checks

Important Changes to UK Right to Work Checks

On September 30, 2022 the UK rules around right to work checks will change. Here’s what productions need...
Topic: UK
EP Blog_SQUARE_New York

NY Convenience Rule Impacts Remote Production Workers and Film Incentives

How remote employee payroll taxes apply to New York-based productions and if an employee’s physical...
Master Series Square Thumbnail-Film Financing-Crowdfunding

Film Financing Explained: Crowdfunding

Emily Best (Seed&Spark), Stacy Bradford (Indiegogo), and producer Zach Fineblum join us to discuss the ins...
EP Blog_SQUARE_US Expanded Incentives 2022-2

A Record Number of US States Expand Filmmaking Incentives in 2022

Your guide to the latest news in production incentives and film programs to come from the 2022 legislative...
EP Blog_SQUARE-Atlantic Canada Expands Incentives

Atlantic Canada Expands Film Incentives in 2022

Enhanced production incentive programs attract industry to Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, and...
Streaming platform on tablet device

The Evolution of Residuals: How Streaming Changed the Model

Understanding how residuals payments are calculated for new content on streaming platforms.

Payroll & Finances

PayrollResidualsSmartStartNew SmartTimeProduction PortalEP On LocationSmartAccountingEP LiveSmartPOCASHétPayPaymaster Rate GuideEP Residency

Manage Multiple Productions

AssetHubSmartHubSmartHub Vault
Subscribe now

Be an industry insider with EP's
newsletters and alerts

LegalPrivacy NoticeSecurity
© 2023 Entertainment Partners. All rights reserved.