A study presented at the Durban FilmMart this week projects that Africa has the potential to gain $2 billion in box office revenue.

As the most underrepresented market in the world, this news comes as a shock. However, with the surge in media consumption due to mobile devices and internet, the film industry needs to invest in the continent.

“Digital platforms may have enabled a democratization of access to content, but they have also narrowed the range of content that consumers are most likely to see, effectively concentrating the supply,” said Dayo Ogunyemi, the founder of 234 Media.

He continues:

“Far from leapfrogging to a digital age in which African filmmakers beam their creations to rapt audiences around the world, creating a sustainable film industry in Africa will require investing in the fundamental building block of every successful film industry in the world—an effective network of brick and mortar cinemas.”

In order to accomplish this, filmmakers, policy-makers and business executives must create a comprehensive solution together that serves the 1.2 billion African citizens.

According to Ogunyemi, building more cinemas throughout the continent and marketing to an African audience should be a main goal for the industry. For instance, Nigeria is home to one of the largest film industries in the region. In 2004, Lagos built its first multiplex in the nation. Today, there are 142 in the country.

Similarly, China had a large surge in its box office revenue that directly coincides with the number of cinemas being built. Within two decades China increased its theater network from 1000 screens to 50000.

Despite these numbers, African filmmakers are struggling to find a spot within the competitive industry. Hollywood films still dominate Nigeria’s box office, but local share grew to 20 percent in 2015 and 33 percent by 2017.

“Hollywood films typically receive prioritized access to existing screens, limiting the opportunities for African films to play,” said Ogunyemi. Not having access to a level playing field creates a vicious cycle. Facing limited screen slots and short theatrical runs, South African filmmakers – already operating on razor-thin margins – invariably invest less in P&A, further hampering their movies’ performances, and reaffirming the belief among exhibitors that “local films don’t do well.”

Ogunyemi believes that even with more cinemas, Africa will continue to fail its local filmmakers.

It is also essential that Africa work together. African creatives will typically seek funding from Europe, which means that Europeans gain the intellectual property of African art. “Africa’s extensive market fragmentation is worsened by the near complete absence of formal frameworks for collaboration on film production and distribution,” Ogunyemi noted. He agrees that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will be a great step forward. Signed in Kigali, Rwanda, earlier this year, 55 members agreed to a free-trade zone that removes tariffs on 90% of goods.

The region’s largest film industries (Nigeria and South Africa) typically focus on production rather than distribution and existing networks neglect African creatives.

“As access to finance is constrained, and distribution is both limited and dominated on all channels by international content, developing effective means of collaboration across African countries must become a burning platform,” Ogunyemi concluded.