For Nigeria’s Creative Industry, It’s Breath of Fresh Air

For Nigeria’s Creative Industry, It’s Breath of Fresh Air

With the support of the Bankers’ Committee and the Central Bank of Nigeria for the creative industry, beginning with the National Theatre whose official handing over was done last week, will translate to job creation, poverty reduction and inclusive growth, writes Obinna Chima

Nigeria is a country with over 250 ethnic groups. This is a reflection of the country’s rich cultural heritage. Through music, movies, writing, food, fashion, dancing, arts among others, the country’s treasure are continuously showcased to the world.

In fact, the Nigerian music industry has been estimated to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13.4 per cent by 2021, estimated at about $73 million.

The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, who revealed this recently, stated that the music industry had untapped potentials despite the enabling environment available for it to thrive.

“Nigeria’s music industry grew by nine per cent in 2016 to reach a value of $39m and is set to grow by 13.4 per cent CAGR by 2021, with an estimated worth of about $73 million.

“The lucrativeness of the industry, as well as the enabling environment it provides for all genres to thrive is noteworthy. It is, however, surprising that the industry is not maximising its potential for growth. Uncontrolled leakage exists, backed by untapped potential that undermine the healthy development of the industry,” she had lamented.

Abubakar had assured that the federal government would support the industry to enable it provide wealth, create jobs, as well as contribute to the nation’s GDP.

“Government is committed and determined to provide more support to the industry towards building on the foundation already laid for sustained long-term growth. We will continue to work closely with all stakeholders to give the creative industry the attention it requires for improved contribution to GDP, wealth and job creation,” she stressed.

And one of the factors that have hindered the growth of the sector is its poor state of infrastructure. For instance, the National Arts Theatre, the primary centre for the performing arts in Nigeria, has lost its glory as well as its potential as a means of non-oil revenue generation for the country.

This national asset that was built in 1976 as one of the four main venues of the historic Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) that took place in 1977, has completely lost its splendour.

Indeed, just like the National Stadium at Surulere, Lagos, this facility has now been turned into a meeting point for mostly town unions and indigenes from other tribes that reside in Lagos State. Hardly does one hear of any cultural event taking place at this edifice once hosted all Nigerian state government functions and musical extravaganzas such as the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Roy Ayers, Skyy, Shalamar, Whispers, Third world and Dynasty; stage events like Wole Soyinka’s adaptation of D.O Fagunwa’s Langbodo and even

Stevie Wonder, who received one of his numerous Grammy Awards at the National Theatre.

The sorry state of this national monument and the desire to aggressively ramp up activities in the non-oil sector forced the Bankers’ Committee, in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to intervene in the National Theatre as well as the creative sector.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and banks under the aegis of the Bankers’ Committee last week unveiled plans to spend about N25 billion as initial funding on the development of Nigeria Creative Centre at the National Theatre, Lagos and three other major cities in Nigeria. The other cities are Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu.

The amount derives from the Creative Industry Funds Initiative (CIFI) of the Bankers’ Committee.

The CBN and other members of the Bankers’ Committee had set up the Creative Industries and Financing Initiative through which banks set aside, on an annual basis, five percent of their profit after tax (PAT).

The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele; Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; the CEO, Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe; Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, and other top officials of the Lagos State government, attended the official handing over of the edifice to the Bankers’ Committee.

Unlocking Opportunities in Creative Sector

Emefiele, who thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the handing over of the edifice and its adjoining land to the Bankers’ Committee, said by his action, the president had demonstrated that he recognised that a renovated National Theatre and the complementary facilities that will be built along with it will help in unleashing creative talents of Nigeria’s youths across multiple sectors and in supporting Buhari’s objective of creating new employment opportunities for Nigerians.

The CBN governor said the handover was timely considering the external headwinds facing the economy presently.

He noted that the impact of the COVID-19 on the global economy and the containment measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus had led to a slowdown in global growth which has also affected the Nigerian economy.

“Given our dependence on crude oil as a major source of government revenue, as well as for our foreign exchange earnings, these challenges have served to reinforce the need for stakeholders to promote policies and programmes that will enable greater diversification of the Nigerian economy.

“A diversified economy that supports increased productivity in agriculture and manufacturing sectors, while harnessing the talents of our youths in the creative industries will lead to the build-up of a more resilient economy, which is better able to withstand external shocks, while creating wealth and jobs for our growing population,” he said.

Emefiele, who is also the chairman of the Bankers’ Committee, said upon completion in another 18 months, the facility would have transformed into Nigeria’s Creative Industrial Centre, which would be comparable to other world-class entertainment and convention centres in any part of the world.

“The creative centre, which comprises music, movies, fashion and ICT, can be a key source of growth for our economy creating up to one million jobs for the country’s teeming youths,” he said, adding that it would also aid the objective of reducing the country’s dependence on revenue from crude oil.

Emefiele explained: “India for example in 2018 generated over $240 billion from exports of IT, movies, music and fashion related goods and services. This amount is over five times our annual earnings from the sale of crude oil. With our human capital resources and an enabling environment that will help harness the creative talents of our youths, Nigeria has the potential to earn over $20 billion annually from the creative industry.

“With the growing demand for Nigerian music, movies and fashion, across Africa and in various parts of the globe, our creative industries are spurring innovation, creating jobs, and helping to shape perceptions of Nigeria, as a nation with a strong spirit of creativity and ingenuity.

“We must do more to encourage the innovative works of these young talented Nigerians as they can make significant contributions to the growth and development of our country.

“Second, given our growing population of close to 200 million people, out of which 60 per cent are under the age of 35, it is imperative that we strive to create opportunities that will keep our youths engaged, as it would portend great dangers for the progress of our nation if we allow these talents go to waste.”

According to Emefiele, the goal for the National Theatre, is to create an environment where start-ups and existing businesses are rewarded for their creativity. He said the National Theatre when fully renovated would be able to support skills acquisition and job creation for over one million Nigerians over the next five years.

These Nigerians would be empowered with funds at single digits interest rate, high level training using state-of-the-art tools, and networks, which would enable them to turn their ideas into a reality, he said.

“When they are able to achieve their objective of creating a new music product, a high-quality movie, an IT software application, or a fashionable outfit, the bankers committee will work to ensure that they are able to distribute their work on a larger scale.

“Furthermore, individuals will have the opportunity to showcase their work at the creative industries centre, which will expose them to domestic and external investors that can provide them with additional resources, which would enable production and expansion of their creative works.

“The supporting facilities such as retail outlets, hotels, entertainment centres, and an international conference centre will also help to reposition the centre as a viable location for high level international meetings and conventions. I would like to once again thank Mr. President for handing over the National Theatre to the Bankers’ Committee.

“We are fully aware that a vibrant creative industry in Nigeria can provide a positive and beneficial growth path for young Nigerians who seek to utilise their talents in creating products and services that offer value at home and abroad. The handover of the National Theatre and the activities that will take place hereafter, will ensure that these skills are harnessed to support the growth of the creative industries, and by extension the growth of the Nigerian economy,” he said.

On his part, Wigwe explained that the entire banking industry came together and decided to intervene in the moribund national asset.

“It is not just about the banking community; we are also partnering the Lagos State and federal governments. Lagos State government is going to support us as far as the dredging issues are concerned and ensure that there is an entire urban regeneration around the whole of that area.

“We are doing this for some reasons. The first is that we need to restore our national heritage. The national theatre is one of the most iconic buildings all over the world. The second thing is that this will help to create employment to millions of Nigerians over the next five years, apart from those who are going to be involved in construction and all of that.

“The third thing is that it is a classic example of an urban regeneration exercise in line with the sustainability principles of the central bank,” Wigwe who is the chairman of body of bank CEOs said.

The Deal

Mohammed said the agreement was for the Bankers’ Committee to transform and upgrade the facility.

According to the minister, the project would be executed in two phases – with the first being the restoration and upgrade of the National Arts Theatre to its glory days at a cost of N7 billion and the second which entails the development of the adjoining fallow land at a cost of N18 billion.

According to him, “The Federal Ministry of Information and Culture will continue to hold the key to the national theatre on behalf of all Nigerians.

“This iconic National Theatre remains a national heritage and will not be ceded to anybody or group as some have chosen to call what we are doing here today.

“This is a public-private partnership, which has two phases. Phase one is to restore and upgrade the National Theatre to its glory days. Phase two will be the development of the fallow land within the premises. This project will not lead to a single job loss, instead, it will create more.

“Some 6,000 jobs would be created during the construction phase and the completed project would generate up to an additional 600 permanent and 2,000 jobs. The project which has been approved by the president is a win-win for everybody. Attempts in the past to restore the national theatre to its glory days had failed.”

He described the handover of the facility as a historic day in the annals of the Creative Industry in Nigeria.

The minister stated, “For over 40 years, no major renovation work has been done on the National Theatre, while the adjoining land has been lying fallow. Many attempts to restore the National Theatre have failed and the government has no money to restore the complex.

“As you know, this is the hub of the Creative Industry in Nigeria. The National Theatre was established to encourage the advancement of the performing arts throughout the country; to create opportunities for performing artists of the country, as well as to aid the promotion of social development and the improvement of the quality of life. In its present state, it is not living to its billing.”

Sanwo-Olu commended the president, the CBN governor and the banks for the initiative.

He said: “We have agreed and said in the next 18 months maximum, there is no contract delay. Maximum, in the next 22 months, we would bring Mr. President here and walk him around the new refurbished National Theatre and all its adjoining wings.

“Lagos is a cynosure, Lagos is a centerpiece. I think it would be a shame on us if we are not doing what we are doing today – if people can think 40 or 45 years ago and put this edifice here. The least we are doing is what we are doing today – to turn it around and make it happen so that people who are coming behind us can be proud of it.”

In his remarks, Dare noted that on completion, the National Theatre would bring about massive job creation for youths, talent discovery and development, revenue generation and innovation and technology hub. With the pandemic still biting hard globally and even in our nation, he said the project was desirable.

“It is the much-needed shot in the arm to vaccinate our youths against the multi-headed challenge of unemployment. The creative city project is important for the Nigerian youth. I commend the Bankers’ Committee for pioneering the vision and being the first to take a risk and a bet on the youths of this country.

“The Nigerian youth represents a critical component to propel the world towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals that we are all focused upon. The coast has never been bigger and the urgency of the moment has been more pertinent. The moment is now for our youths. We must hand over to our youths, a far better future than was handed to us,” he stated.

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