CBN’s Looming Financial Liberation for Creative Industry

Nollywood Stars

Yinka Olatunbosun argues that the Creative Industry Finance Initiative initiated by the Central Bank of Nigeria is one good step forward in liberating artists from the crippling crisis of funding

News about the N21.9 billion intervention fund by the Central Bank of Nigeria in collaboration with the Bankers’ committee to the creative sector had gone viral since the recently held Creative Nigeria Summit in Lagos. Add to this the plans to develop creative industry parks and hubs in Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu. Interestingly, the vast expanse of land around the once vibrant but now flood-prone National Theatre is expected to be rebuilt for the purpose of driving job creation, training and capacity building and foreign exchange generation.

A recent tour of the facility by the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele alongside the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat and the MD/ CEO, Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe sent a clear signal to the creative community that perhaps, this is no mere wishful thinking. Contrary to fears, National Theatre is not about to be converted into a luxury hotel.

Meanwhile, the Creative Industry Finance Initiative (CIFI) targets four key areas namely the movie, music, fashion and information technology sectors which are considered as the strongest pillars in Nigeria’s burgeoning creative economy. For obvious reasons, the visual artists felt excluded. Prior to CBN’s intervention, the British Council had embarked on a survey to help map the lucrative potentials in the creative industry.

Due to the under reporting of income in the visual arts, it was difficult to ascertain the sectors’ contribution to the Gross Value Added (GVA). But Nigerian artworks are some of the bestselling in leading art auction houses in the UK. Anyway, in that survey conducted in 2013, the Nigerian film industry was found to contribute 61 per cent, while fashion contributed 26 per cent and music was estimated to have contributed 13 per cent to the GVA. Still, this result did not show the actual contribution of music sector as many of the targeted respondents such as Psquare, Tubaba and other top earners were not available to fill the questionnaires.

But then, some facts are undeniable: these key sectors possess the power of value chain. For instance, if you empower a theatre director, you have created jobs for actors, dancers, singers, costumier, make up artist, fashion designer, musicologist, royalty for playwright and more personnel that are typically involved in a production process.

UNESCO has recognized that Nigeria’s home video industry, otherwise known as Nollywood, as the world’s second largest with potential annual revenue of N522 billion. Despite this realisation, professionals in the creative industry still run around to secure corporate sponsorship for their projects. It is not unusual for the corporate sponsor to dictate how their product placement will be done. In an almost shylock affair, some sponsors demand to have their brand logo as stage backdrop, which is unethical in real theatre practice. There is really no freedom for an artist who has to dance to the sponsor’s tunes as a matter of financial necessity. With CIFI, creatives now have financial options. Creatives are eligible for the CIFI if they have businesses that can create jobs, build capacity and be able to make loan repayment within 10 years.

Some of the factors that had crippled the National theatre include lack of security, poor administration and infrastructure. It is a given that cultural life can only be alive in the presence of security, accessible roads and good power supply. Ask culture buffs in Bonn, Berlin, New York, and most cities of the world where nightlife is lit, infrastructure plays a major part. No one wants to drive on poorly lit Lagos roads with potholes covered with flood waters at night.

With CBN taking a good step forward, it is expected that the Lagos State government follows next with pliable roads.