How Nigeria has affected the rest of Africa

A sales person sorts through DVDs in a shop at the Nigerian film market in Lagos Are Nollywood films Nigeria's most influential export?

As Nigeria celebrates 50 years of independence, BBC reporters look at the impact Africa's most populous nation has had on countries around the continent - from its movie industry and peacekeeping efforts to its notoriety for ingenious scams.

Ghana - by David Amanor:

There is no mistaking the ancient cultural and linguistic ties between the neighbours. However, the post-colonial relationship has been characterised by a kind of sibling rivalry. Nigeria is highly respected for leading effective peacekeeping in the region, and at the same time mocked for failing to ensure peace in Nigeria. While Ghana takes pride in leading the continental way in independence, democratisation, and more recently, in sporting achievements.


An estimated 1m Nigerian nationals and dual citizens live and work in Ghana and, paradoxically, communication has been made easier by a shared colonial intervention - the English language and its pidgin variants. And if you go to any home or office in Accra at any time of day, you'll find Ghanaians glued to a television set. Invariably the attraction, or distraction, is a Nollywood movie with common themes of supernatural causes, twisted love, and thrilling crime. Nigerian R&B has also captured the musical tastes of Ghana's urban youth in a big way.

On the streets of Accra I asked some people what the first thing that came to mind with the mention of Nigeria. "Brotherhood," said Stephen Ofosu, a commercial driver. "What I like about Nigerians is that they are hard working in business." Pressed for negative aspects, the answer flowed promptly and unimpeded. "Fraudsters and 419," he replied, referring to the scams often run by well-organised gangs known by the penal code which outlaws them in Nigeria. Laurentia, a higher education student, added: "Whenever a set of armed robbers is caught here, definitely there will be two Nigerians among them."

More wide-ranging positive views came from Nana Akua: "Nigerians like to dress traditionally when it comes to international occasions, we also take pride in our culture but our leaders dress like the whites when they go abroad."

DR Congo - by Thomas Hubert:

Nigerian mechanics in Lagos Nigerian mechanics are famous around the continent

In sprawling Kinshasa, the only means of transportation is a fleet of ancient, battered taxis.

And if the city does not grind to a complete halt, it is thanks to a network of largely Nigerian traders who provide drivers with precious spare parts.

Huddled around the Kimpwanza roundabout, hundreds of colourful shops display the rare English-language signs visible in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital. "Chance Motors", "In God We Trust Auto" and their neighbours proudly display man-high piles of headlamps, starters and brake pads.

Those entrepreneurs use their connections in West Africa, a global exchange for second-hand automobile parts, to import the much sought-after pieces of mechanics.

Each garage specialises in one or several car manufacturers. For example, if you own a Ford and break down, your only hope is Nigerian-owned Lita Motors, where orders are taken in English or in the local Lingala - but not in the official French.

And perhaps it is the language barrier that has stopped Nollywood, as the Nigerian film industry is known, becoming the phenomenon it has in other African countries.

Libya - by Rana Jawad:

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Although Nigeria may be seen by some as the giant of Africa, Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi seems to like putting the West Africa nation in its place”

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While Nigeria's cultural influence may have been huge across other parts of Africa, neither Nollywood nor Naija groove has reached Libya, despite the many illegal Nigerian migrants who regularly cross the desert to reach the North Africa country in the hope of eventually reaching Europe.

To many here, the only thing the two countries share is oil. Their experiences of illegal migrants largely perpetuate negative images of Nigeria and its people, who are viewed as untrustworthy and as being at the forefront of drug smuggling and robberies.

However, you will occasionally come across a Tripoli resident with a positive anecdote - like how they enjoyed practising English with their Nigerian household help.

On the political front, although Nigeria may be seen by some as the giant of Africa, Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi seems to like putting the West Africa nation in its place. Earlier this year, he suggested - to the fury of Nigerian MPs - that the country split in two along religious lines. Shortly after he went even further suggesting the country fragment into several states along ethnic grounds.

Cameroon - by Randy Joe Sa'ah:

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Cameroon has long viewed her giant neighbour as an imperialist-in-the-making”

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Some 3,000 boundary pillars are being planted along the Cameroon-Nigeria border - it is hoped they will prevent further disputes between the neighbours which nearly went to war over the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsular. The conflict was the peak of their mutual suspicion and several lives have been lost in border skirmishes over the years.

Cameroon has long viewed her giant neighbour as an imperialist-in-the-making, especially given Nigerians' ballooning population. They began arriving Cameroon in the early colonial days as fishermen, traders and administrators. Their population is now estimated at more than 4m out of a population of 19.5m.

They own virtually all motor spare part shops and now Nigerian Pentecostal pastors are setting up everywhere and performing supposed miracle-healing services. But many young Cameroonians think churches are flourishing businesses and have joined the race to become pastors, prophets, deacons and overnight bishops. They seem to be in a hurry to transform beer parlours into prayer grounds.

Chiefs in Bakassi who consider themselves Nigerian Some people in Bakassi, handed over to Cameroon in 2008, still consider themselves Nigerian

Truly, the "Naija" brand is here and no-one can ignore it. Nollywood films are popular in homes, video clubs and TV channels. Cameroon's young film sector is benefiting from the expertise of their Nigerian friends who have jointly produced a few Made In Cameroon videos. Nigerian gospel music also has enveloped the place and the likes of the P-Square duo have been thoroughly embraced by the youth. But it is not one-way traffic: Many Cameroonians have for decades studied in Nigerian universities.

Perhaps the most concrete evidence of the thawing of relations is the eminent construction of a multi-million dollar highway from Enugu in Nigeria to Mutengene in Cameroon. No-one seems happier than merchants of both countries.

Kenya - by Kevin Mwachiro:

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I have an uncle who has a mammoth collection of Nigerian movies”

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For a long time the only export Nigeria provided Kenya was bad news. Stories of corruption, rogue pastors, hustlers, conmen, scams, even worse traffic than Nairobi and lots and lots of people. The only positive tales were literary, thanks to Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Elechi Amadi.

What changed it all for us in Kenya was Nollywood. Nigeria became real and we were exposed to Nigerians telling their stories and not us being told stories about Nigerians. All of a sudden there were VCDs and DVDs being sold of Nollywood blockbusters. I have an uncle who has a mammoth collection of Nigerian movies and a few other relatives who swear on the integrity of Nigerian pastors.

And as people were exposed to Nigerians, either on the big screen on in person, other elements of Nigeria made their way into the lives of Kenya - notably in fashion and music. Huge and colourful head-wraps, accessorised elegant and colourful boubous (traditional gowns) and for a number of women, that was the outfit of choice at social gatherings. We also started dancing to Nigerian tunes from 2Face, D'banj, Femi Kuti, Bracket and P-Square.

So Kenyans now dance to a very different Nigerian tune. Thanks to Nigeria, West Africa is now at home in East Africa.

Liberia - by Jonathan Paye-Layleh:

Ecomog soldiers with rebel loyal to Charles Taylor in Liberia in 1992 Nigerians serving with Ecomog or the UN have been in Liberia for years

Economic links between Liberia and the giant of West Africa have always been strong - the most visible sign of which is the 85km (50 mile) Ibrahim Babangida Highway (named after a former Nigerian head of state) to Sierra Leone's border.

But it is Nigeria's peacekeeping efforts that Liberians are most grateful for. When the civil war broke out, Nigeria led a West African intervention force, Ecomog, which prevented the rebels of Charles Taylor from overrunning the capital, Monrovia, in August 1990.

Ever since, Nigeria has been in the vanguard of peacekeeping efforts in Liberia, and in recent times, has also sent doctors and teachers to help with the country's acute shortages.

Nigerian-owned churches are, arguably, the largest in Liberia, which is fiercely religious, as the country was founded on the principles of Christianity by freed slaves repatriated from the US in the 19th Century.

It is true to say that Nigerians feel at home here. Many Nigerians, including those in the UN peacekeeping force and private traders, are married to Liberian women and have fathered hundreds of children in recent years.

Nigerian movies are also extremely popular and the young Liberian film industry, modelling itself on Nollywood, is called Lolliwood.

But sadly, Nigerians have also been linked to armed robbery and drug pushing in the post-war period.

Zambia - by Mutuna Chanda:

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The Nigerian influence has been so infectious that in some circles friends pick the distinctive West African accent whenever they joke ”

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Peter Ngoma is a Zambian street hawker who earns an average of $20 (£12) a day selling DVDs. He moves from one street to the other selling his wares. Nigerian films account for a third of his earnings - a feat that the Zambian film industry is yet to reach.

Productions from Nollywood have had a phenomenal impact on Zambians. Most of Zambia's television stations, especially recently established ones, have Nigerian films as part of their regular programming.

The Nigerian influence has been so infectious that in some circles friends pick up the distinctive West African accent whenever they joke or chat amongst themselves about happenings in their lives.

It is Nigerians' power of persuasion, irrespective of what they, do that makes their products sell - and it is what makes them a hit even in religious circles.

Zambia is host to churches with origins from Nigeria and a number of them have large followings.

Such is the popularity of their brand, that many ailing Zambians have flown to Nigeria to seek further healing.

South Africa - by Pumza Fihlani:

Worshippers at a church in Lagos, Nigeria Nigerian worship and fashion have spread across the continent

District 9, the recent Hollywood blockbuster about aliens in South Africa, depicted Nigerians as seedy criminals - it might have only been a movie but in many parts of the country this stereotype has been accepted as fact. Logic says this is a generalisation, still for some reason ordinary South Africans blame no-one else for the country's drug and crime problem - you're almost guaranteed the same answer: "Nigerians - men particularly."

Despite these prejudices millions of Nigerians have made this their home and started families here, which has proved another bone of contention. Phrases like: "They are stealing our jobs and our women" are flung around at dinner tables whenever talk about our brothers and sisters from the north arise.

Still many South Africans do enjoy Nigerian films - there are two channels on DSTV satellite just dedicated to Nollywood, while churches led by Nigerians have mushroomed in many cities, mostly around Johannesburg.

And you have to admire Nigerians, who tend to stand out in a crowd with their big flashy cars, bold dress and lively speech, for their ability to keep their heads up in the midst of great and often undue condemnation.

More on This Story

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