The year 2022 could be when the global media industry finally starts taking Africa seriously.
A string of recent deals among African film and TV producers and global studios and streamers marks a sharp change from the decades in which African talent and the African market were neglected, ignored or dismissed.
“I’ve been in this industry for 20 years, and it’s only now that we’re seeing this real explosion, a real tipping point, for African content,” says Nigerian TV pioneer Mo Abudu. “The reality of the marketplace has changed.”
Abudu’s company, EbonyLife Media, has been a prime beneficiary of that change. In 2020, EbonyLife shut down its pan-African television channel, which was available across the continent, to focus on the more lucrative, and growing, business of production, particularly with international streamers. It was the first African company to sign a multititle deal with Netflix for features — human trafficking drama Oloture, domestic abuse drama Blood Sisters and the period epic Death and the King’s Horseman, based on the 1975 play by Nigerian Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka — as well as series, including Nigerian legal drama Castle & Castle, about a husband and wife who run a law firm. Other EbonyLife projects in the pipeline include a dystopian sci-fi series, Nigeria 2099, set up as a co-production with AMC; Reclaim, a six-part heist thriller that will kick off a co-production deal between EbonyLife and BBC Studios and which follows a team of art thieves looking to steal back Nigerian works poached by the British Empire 125 years ago; and an action series, developed with Sony Pictures Television, about the historical all-female West African army the Dahomey Warriors — an inspiration for the fictional Dora Milaje of Marvel’s Black Panther.