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The Role of the Creative Sector in Changing the Perception and Fortunes of Nigeria

The Role of the Creative Sector in Changing the Perception and Fortunes of Nigeria

For Azura Power West Africa Limited, its mantra has always been to improve the standard of living of its host communities. In line with this, the company recently donated free education materials and library to Edo Primary Schools, Precious Ugwuzor reports

United States-based Universal Content Production (UCP), a division of Universal Studio Group (USG), on April 25, announced that it has penned a first-of-its-kind partnership deal with Comic Republic, a Nigerian online multimedia company that specialises on the digital creation and distribution of original African comic books. UCP says that the partnership with the start-up owned by Jide Martin is part of measures to expand its world of heroes. The partnership, which was first reported by Hollywood Reporter, seeks to develop series based on the characters and stories from Comic Republic’s popular Vanguards Universe.

Comic Republic has received extensive coverage by local and international media in all seven continents, including CNN, BBC, Forbes, Comixology and Aljazeera, for the depth and quality of the company’s comic books and its unique business model.

The partnership is not only an affirmation of the incredible world of stories and characters built by the Comic Republic team as observed by Selwyn Seyfu Hinds, owner of  the banner Mad Massive Entertainment and executive producer of the comic books projects based in the intercontinental partnership, but also a substantiation of the growth of the nation’s comic book industry and the recognition of the inherent opportunities and potential in it by foreign observers as demand for content keeps growing globally. This new phase of the rising industry did not begin with the recent partnership between Comic Republic and UCP, as similar interest has previously been shown by foreign entertainment companies in other Nigerian comic book/content companies and creators, who continue to seek new consumers for their products.

The last four years have been particularly remarkable. It has been highlighted by Walt Disney Animation Studios sign up African entertainment company, Kugali, for the production of its first TV show titled Iwaju, an upcoming animated television series  with its characters set against the backdrop of a futuristic Lagos; HBO Max and Cartoon Network announcement of a 2D animated adaptation of “Iyanu: Child of Wonder,” from Dark Horse Comics/YouNeek Studios graphic novel series;

and now Universal signing a comic IP licensing deal with Comic Republic. Interestingly, a common thread that runs through these comic narratives is the concept of African superheroes as icons. This is is ingeniously deployed by the creators to influence literacy rates in Nigeria, preserve indigenous Nigerian, nay African stories through art, and inspire people to look up to African superheroes and not just Western ones; heroes that look like us.

Experts are of the view that Nigeria’s creative industry is yet to live up to its full potential, in spite of the boom witnessed in movies and music in the last three decades. It is worthy of note that the industry had been neglected for so long until about a decade ago.

Nigeria’s foremost career platform, Jobberman, in a 2021 report on the nation’s creative industry, positioned the industry as the country’s second-largest employer with the potential to produce 2.7million jobs by 2025, noting that it is projected to contribute 5 trillion naira to the country’s GDP. The study also indicated that the creative industry employs 4.2 million people across five sectors: media, entertainment visual arts, beauty and lifestyle, as well as tourism and hospitality.

While the music, movie and other prominent sectors of the creative enterprise have recently garnered attention from government less prominent sectors such as the visual arts, etc have largely been excluded in spite of the huge potential that has been identified in them.   

Following the rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP from about USD 270 billion to USD 510 billion for 2013, indicating an increase of about 90% attributed to new sectors of the economy such as movies (Nollywood) telecommunications, and retail, which were not captured or underreported previously, the Federal Government has increasingly seen the need to stimulate the potentials in the rather untapped sectors of the economy where growth opportunities exist.                                                                                                                                                    In recent years, significant steps have been taken by the current administration to support and stimulate growth in the creative sector. Prominent among them are the establishment of a $500million fund, known as Nigeria Innovation Programme (NIP), in collaboration with the African Development Bank (AfDB) for the tech and creative sectors in 2021; and the proposed N25 billion Creative Industry Funds Initiative (CIFI) by the CBN and Bankers’ Committee as initial funding on the development of Nigeria Creative Centre at the National Theatre, Lagos as well as Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu in 2020. The NIP was proposed by the federal government to boost innovation and job creation, and foster growth in the technology and creativity entrepreneurship ecosystem. It is expected to bring about further development to the already booming creative industry. The CIFI package provides the funds to the creative sector at a single-digit interest rates with a tenor of four to five years.

Stakeholders in the creative industry have also taken the initiative to develop the sector with the introduction, very recently, of the Nigeria Creative Industries Development Bill (CIDB) 2023. It is a collaborative effort between giants in the creative industries and the Presidency, which seeks to provide an enabling environment for the industry in Nigeria. The CIDB is specifically aimed at transforming the Nigerian creative space through provision of incentives, access to funding, enabling research, and the creation of an environment for skills development and training.

Sadly, these interventions have been fraught with a lot of problems, chief among them the seemingly strenuous terms and conditions for accessing the funds.

Another shortcoming in these interventions is the exclusion of other segments of the creative industry as evident in the the CIFI where the scope of the listed eligible activities in the focal sub-sectors is restricted to four areas, namely fashion, IT/software development, movie and music. The implication is that creative industry segments such as dance and comedy;  and many aspects of visual arts including painting, drawing, print-making, sculpture, ceramics, photography, design/industrial design, graphic design, interior design, decorative art, comics, among others, are left out.

The critical role played by the nation’s creative sector in influencing the growth of African arts and culture, over the years, cannot be overemphasised.

Limitless opportunities in technology, especially in virtual reality and artificial intelligence, provide the latitude for many Nigerian creative talents to use their influence to spur economic growth and development and positively change perceptions of Nigeria among Nigerians and the rest of the world.

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