Raheem Akingbolu, who witnessed the ‘French Season of African Cultures 2020’ at the African Shrine in Lagos, writes on the need to support the growth of the culture and creative industry in the continent
One week after the visit of the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, to Nigeria, the economic importance of the visit is still reverberating, especially as it concerns the boost it would give to the creative industry and appreciation of African culture. The event, entitled ‘A Celebration of African Culture’, was organised by TRACE and sponsored by Ecobank at the African Shrine in Lagos.
The relevance of the event was aptly captured by the Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria, Mr. Charles Kie, who stated that Ecobank was delighted to be sponsoring the showcasing and celebration of the growing universal impact of African culture because of its potentiality to further position the continent.
“Sustainable economic growth is essential to increase our continent’s global competitiveness thereby improving standards of living and prosperity for all Africans.
“It is fantastic to see that Africa’s burgeoning creative industries are playing their full part in doing this by entertaining and attracting the global audiences that will in turn help increase both international interest and investment in African nations and businesses to the benefit of all,” Kie who has announced his decision to step down from his position said.
Kie pointed out that Africa has a growing population, with an average age of around just 19, and a burgeoning middle class.
“By 2040 it is projected to be one of the few continents where its youth demographic will be the largest. It is no wonder that we enjoy a rich and varied taste for food, fashion, music, arts and culture generally,”
On the strategic role the bank wants to play in the continent, he said Ecobank want for all Africans to have a share in prosperity.
“To be able to enjoy the fruits of their labour, to be successful and to realise their dreams. In Africa we have an innate entrepreneurial spirit, and this has bred literally millions of business start-ups,”
According to him, businesses need access to finance in order to grow; they need banking to be convenient and efficient to allow them to put their energies into their businesses.
He admitted that some of today’s small business start-ups would be the multi-nationals of tomorrow and that the bank has a thriving commercial bank that meets the funding needs of businesses.
“It’s fitting that Africa’s strong heritage in dance and music also brings so many together by integrating them through entertainment and sheer interest.”
Place of technology in music
Speaking on the impact of technology in the music industry, he made reference to the work of Femi Kuti – who also entertained the visiting president and other guests at the event, pointing out that one could access the work easily on mobile phone from anywhere in the world, especially Africans in diaspora who want to stay in touch with their homeland.
“What isn’t so great for expatriate workers is the charges that they incur when sending cross-border remittances to their dependants or relatives back home.
“These charges can take huge bites out of what they send – the World Bank found that remittance services in Sub-Saharan Africa are the costliest in the world at an average cost of 9.4 per cent.
“Inter-regional remittances can be even more expensive, with the payment corridor connecting Angola to Namibia costing as much as 21.4 per cent of the remittance amount – that’s over a fifth of what is sent. This reduces the living standards of the dependants which in turn impacts negatively on the local economy.
Acceptability of African Culture
While commending Macron for believing in Africa, he said African culture is enjoying growth and widespread attention globally.
“We are witnessing large sums paid for African art recently.
“Sales of African art at Christies in Paris raised €6.1 million in June and just over a year ago Sotheby’s inaugural sale of modern and contemporary African Art generated £2.8 million in aggregate sales. Nigeria’s British-based artist Yinka Shonibare MBE’s ‘Crash Willy’ sold for £224,750. I wonder how much was charged for remitting the proceeds if they were sent overseas.”
According to him, in the film world, Nigeria’s ‘Nollywood’ is the second biggest film industry in the world with 2,000 productions every year, generating more than US$4 billion.
He pointed out that the recent Black Panther film has achieved phenomenal success, adding that it was one of the highest grossing films ever.
“Africa’s arts, culture and creative industries are realising their potential and are a testament to the potential of Africa as a whole. Ecobank is determined to support the cultural industries to further develop, to exchange and share views, and to secure the growth that will benefit their sector and Africa as a whole.
“It is heartening to see international recognition for African culture through the presence of President Macron and let me assure him that Ecobank shares a modern view of Africa: we are not a continent to be defined by our past, we have a bright future, fashioned by Africans for the benefit of all Africans.
“We welcome his commitment to embrace and work with the whole of Africa, and not just our Francophone brothers and sisters. We join him in his desire to deepen Africa’s global economic relationships,”
To this end, he announced that Africa is open for international investment to drive trade development, and to continue to industrialise and improve the continent’s infrastructure, so that they can grow their regional and global value chains as well as diversify their economies and grow trade and economies.
In what looked like a showcase of the creative ingenuity of Africans, the bank was also commended for impacting an 11-year-old boy, Kareem Waris Olamilekan, who was invited to sketch a portrait of the visiting president to the delight of all, in two hours.
On the empowerment, the bank’s CEO said: “As a pan African financial institution, we are glad to have empowered Olamilekan to achieve his dream. This is what we stand for. We will monitor his progress and support him to realise his potentials.”
President Macron explained the rationale behind his decision to visit the African Shrine, describing it as an “iconic place for African people and culture.”
The French president disclosed that having worked in Nigeria for about 15 years ago, the visit was a good opportunity to return to the African Shrine, noting that apart from the personal pleasure derivable from it, the African Shrine showcases the importance of African culture.
He said he had fond memories of African Shrine.
Macron said: “First, I think that it is such an iconic place for a lot of African people and African culture. And I think very often, when you speak of the African culture in Europe, those who are successful in Europe and in France, which is different most of the times are not dramatically very famous in Nigeria or in Africa. And there is a bias because you know people are not the same.