African Entertainment: How Nigerian showbiz stars survived recession


One of the most hit industries by the economic recession which started since late 2014 is the Nigerian film industry, better known as Nollywood, which ironically ranks as the third largest in the world. The industry, in the season in focus, lost some notable figures to deaths that could have been avoided had there being sufficient funds for medical care while others pathetically fed from hand-to-mouth before the National Bureau of Statistics finally declared a few months back that the country is officially out of recession. But while the storm raged, some of the industry players refused to be plagued by the economic downturn, wearing their thinking caps and floating other enterprises not to only survive but to prosper. In this piece, LANRE ODUKOYA and ADEDAYO ODULAJA share an insight into how some entertainers lived above the troubled waters.

When the austere times stung like wild bees, one of those who braced up to it and waltzed unscathed out of the economic recession was Nollywood star actress, Genevieve Nnaji. The Nollywood diva had launched her clothing line, St. Genevieve, a few years back but she simply gave it massive online presence from the understanding of the power that digital marketing possesses. The venture appears to be doing well as it is available on several online stores. Genevieve also knows what it means to consume her product, hence the impressive patronage she gets from celebrities and fashion savvy individuals. As it was also a time of drought of movie roles occasioned by lower purchasing power of producers who couldn’t afford her fees and were forced to turn to younger ones, the Imo State-born star turned to production, turning out her well-received movie debut production, Road To Yesterday in the process and she is now geared up for more.

For Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo, better known as D’banj, life has always been about much more than music. Also widely known as The Kokomaster, the 37-year-old Ogun State indigene is not just a musician but a dogged entrepreneur. The DB records boss launched his ‘Koko Gari’ four years ago, a packaged form of the popular Nigerian cassava grains and his product was endorsed by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote and has been featured in several music videos by musicians including Oritsefemi. To further boost the sales of his products, he’d gone to China to discuss expansion of the production line and also established a talent promotion platform called CREAM, rated to be worth over $80m by KPMG. So when the discussion for a reunion with former partner, Don Jazzy, failed, D’banj continued to grow his investments. With the exportation of food items being a huge commercial spin-off during recession, you’d reckon this made the singer far richer at a time many others were groaning. But apart from his involvement in a number of agricultural initiatives within and beyond Africa, he also became a Beats by Dre and SLOT ambassador.

Innocent Idibia, otherwise known as 2Baba or Tuface, has his fingers in other pies apart from music which is truly the source of his fame and fortune. The 42-year-old singer owns the Rumors night club in Lagos, with two outlets, one in Festac and the other in G.R.A., Ikeja. Sources who spoke with New Telegraph reiterated the open secret that the Idoma boy from Benue State, also plays big in the Lagos real estate sector. 2Baba, as he now prefers to be called, owns two buildings in the FESTAC area and t w o detached 3-bedroom luxury apartments in Haven Homes, Lekki among others. On why he delved into the club business, the “Gaga Shuffle” singer once said: “I am not only an artiste, I’m also an entrepreneur. I want to make the night club a model like Jay-z’s Club 40/40. I want to have my clubs in major cities in Nigeria, as well as in South Africa, Europe and the US.”

She might be grieving from the loss of her father which she announced on social media days ago but Nollywood star, Mercy Aigbe, is one of those that have handled the tenure of recession well. Apart from her known profession as an actress in the Yoruba section of the Nigerian movie industry, Mercy Aigbe also runs and operates a boutique, Magdivas located in Omole Estate. Mercy, who made headlines many times over the unsavoury domestic violence saga with her estranged husband, Lanre Gentry, this year, added a new business to her fashion line. The mother of two introduced Flawless by Mercy, a skin bleaching organic product line for the treatment of dark spots, knuckles, stretch marks and other skin problems. Speaking on what led her into launching the skincare line, the actress said requests from her fans forced her to join the booming industry. Using her skin as the advert for her fast-selling products, Mercy, who remains very active in acting, has defied recession with many ventures including the MAG School of Drama.

Another young actress looking beyond the klieg lights, Chika Ike founded her own production company in 2014, the early days of the latest economic meltdown to hit Nigeria. She produced her first movie, Miss Teacher as well as her own reality TV game show called African Diva Reality TV Show, the first season of which aired on DStv with considerable success. In 2015, she collaborated with Rok Studios to produce movies like Happy Ending and Stuck on You while launching her own fashion line, Fancy Nancy with a boutique located in Abuja that same year. As part of developing herself further, she graduated from the New York Film Academy where she studied film making in 2014, a follow up to the 2-year diploma program in human kinetics and health education she completed in 2006 and a degree in the same course and institution shortly after. She has now been admitted for a course at the prestigious Harvard Business School.

There is no hiding the fact that hugely talented actor. Odunlade Adekola, has been the most popular Yoruba actor for the past few years. Apart from acting, which keeps him busy for days in Abeokuta, the ancient town in which he was raised and which he calls home, Odunlade is big with brands – big and small- across the south west region. He is also the first choice of many people holding events in states like Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Osun States when it comes to compering their events. At such events lasting a few hours at most, sources told New Telegraph he charges between N200,000 and N300,00 depending on some factors, apart from choice gifts he is usually besieged with. He owns a unisex salon and boutique in Abeokuta which is run on his behalf by close family members as well as some hospitality ventures.

For many observers of the Yoruba section of Nollywood, the stunning Bisi Ibidapo-Obe is as gorgeous as she is controversial. Widely known as Bisi ‘Omo Logba Logba’ on account of a role she played while on her way to limelight, Bisi is one of those who seemingly prepared for recession as she has been missing from the acting scene for a while. On that score, she established and now runs a shop for lingerie and sex toys in the Magodo area of Lagos. In an interview, she spoke on patronage thus: “I will say so far so good, God has been very wonderful to us. People patronize us daily, both men and women, old and young. They come regularly. And not only that, they also discover that what we sell are reasonable.” Speaking on the very essence of providing an alternative to her, she said: “It’s not easy sleeping at home when you’re not on location. I am happy I have another lucrative business now. And it’s fully equipped to my taste. I have a personal office there. I will say a lot of wonderful things have been happening in my life since I opened the shop. I have met new people, both men and women, apart from those I knew as an actress. B.I.O Lingerie is a multi-million naira project. I can’t really say this is the exact amount I invested in it. All I know is that it’s beyond me, it’s God. He has been wonderful to me.”

Iyabo Ojo is not a popular Yoruba actress but she also owns a beauty salon, FESPRIS World located in Lagos. Talk about diversification, her entrepreneurial drive was further demonstrated with the launch of Abula Spot Bar & Lounge, a place that promises Lagos residents in the Lekki axis of a good place where they can enjoy a plate of abula in the inimitable Ibadan style every day. Surrounded by friends and colleagues like Toyin Abraham, Dayo Amusa, Regina Chukwu, Funke Etii and Ronke Oshodi-Oke, the actress said she had to sell her land and costly jewelry to fund the food business.

Despite being in government as Special Assistant on Culture and Tourism to Governor Emmanuel Udom, a position she has occupied since 2016, Ini Edo is not taking opportunities to have alternative sources of income lightly. So determined is she that she reportedly started a bakery business recently, producing pastries and bread, with Ini Delicious as her brand name. Having seen the chance to make some money in that regard, the star actress is currently working on putting in place a viable distribution network across the state.

Although there is no doubt about where her fortune came from, Funke Akindele who is currently enjoying a new lease of life after giving marriage another trial, is also looking beyond acting. With a thriving production company, Scene One Productions, already well established, Jenifa, as she is also popularly known, has started a record label business named SOP Records along with her husband, JJC Skillz. And if you think that is not a viable form of insurance, those who know about how the music business can be a kind of goldmine.

He is diminutive in stature, alright but the same cannot be said of Osita Iheme’s business acumen. The actor is into the hospitality business with what sources say is a magnificent hotel in Owerri, the capital of Imo State. Not just that, the actor, who is not known for lavishing money on luxury items or showing off on social media, also invested some of the fortune he has made from acting into a blossoming transportation business reportedly worth millions of Naira.

Before the bout of ill health which struck some months back, leaving her to battle ill health and undergoing a fibroid surgery, Halima Abubakar was one of Nollywood’s most glamorous stars. Beyond the glamour, however, Halima has been taking investing in the future seriously. This is why following the prompting of a few people close to her, she established a large poultry farm in Kogi State. Said to be fairly large, sitting on more than one acre and doing well, the actress’s farm is one of the investments she is looking up to when she finally begins to yield the state for younger elements. While sharing a few photos from the farm, which is also into cassava production and rearing of rams recently, the actress said the business is more lucrative than acting. As things have turned out, even while everyone is hoping she will soon be back on her feet and movie sets, it is turning out to be a truly great decision.

Fashionable Nollywood actor, Jim Iyke, is one of those who are looking at creating an avenue for revenue generation beyond the current sphere. The Last Flight to Abuja star is also the CEO of Burgeon Global, a firm that is into bottled water manufacturing at present while looking to delve into real estate soon.


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