BY OJOMA OCHAI
You know how when you’re slightly hungry your brain is sharper? Apparently, a lack of fuel that keeps you grounded also has the same effect!
So this fine Saturday, while at home in what I’m almost sure is 35 degrees heat and no NEPA (PHCN, whatever!) I was reflecting on the mysteries of the kingdom and my mind went to the state of the Nigerian creative industries. Those industries like film, music, fashion and the performing and visual arts, which have their basis in Intellectual Property.
My mind wandered to something Audu (Maikori) said at the Nigerian Entertainment Conference about a week ago. He was challenging a panel which I was on, that was talking about financing the entertainment industry to be more proactive in developing insight, understanding and models for financing the sector as the long-running mantra of not understanding the sector had reached its sell-by date.
At the time, I didn’t take the statement as ‘my sub’, but with fuel-scarcity induced clarity, I realised I was guilty of focusing on the sectors’ problems and articulating them in impeccable bursts of logic but hadn’t dedicated as much time to thinking or talking about how far the sector had come, how much more it can achieve and how Uhuru would be found.
So, I got thinking about what needs to be done to grow the sector to build on its successes to achieve what we all know is immense potential.
Education and Skills
The sector needs a multi-layered education and skills intervention. This ranges from arts education from primary school that fosters an appreciation for the arts and secures the future market for Nigeria’s creative industries to robust career advice in secondary school / early university that opens up young people’s thinking and awareness to the breadth of career and enterprise opportunities in the creative industries be it artistic, management or technical, to a robust vocational skills accreditation framework that stimulates high quality artisanship and vocational;/ technical skills training and certification.
In summary, we need an army of highly skilled workers with different levels of artistic, management and technical, expertise, working in the sector to build strong businesses and business models, that are profitable, sustainable and innovative.
I have a vision of a Nigeria that is the hub for the highest quality, film, theatre and content production education and skills in Sub-Saharan Africa.
I’ve written (and spoken) before about how I feel that the entertainment industry suffers more from a market failure in distribution than a piracy problem. On reflection, I was probably wrong, or at least, not seeing the full picture. The market failure while it has certainly stimulated the problem, neither justifies it nor makes the problem of piracy or illegal copying any less undermining of the growth of the industry.
I think that to move forward, in the immediate, there needs to be a two-pronged approach to solving the problem of distribution. One, a regulatory approach that implements and enforces in the short term, in full, the Nigerian Copyright act, and other existing legislation and international conventions regarding the protection of intellectual property. Linked to this is getting the average Efosa ( or Mohammed, Ngozi and Ayotunde, in the spirit of Federal Character) on the street to recognise that when they patronise counterfeiters and pirates, they not only take food out of the creative producers’ mouths, they are inadvertently building mansions for themselves in the world of crime.
A second prong would be a market led approach that builds distribution infrastructure to scale, strengthens IP practice to maximise revenue and stimulates innovation around the leveraging of IP assets for business benefit. By distribution to scale, I mean national or regional chain cinemas, viewing centres, bookstores and retail chains through which producers of content can negotiate a small number of distribution deals to secure reliable, wide reach for their creative products and be paid commensurately.
Medium to long term, we need to review Nigerian IP legislation to recognise new (digital) trends in content creation, distribution and consumption, stimulate streamlined methodologies for remuneration of content / creative producers for their IP (think digital asset registry) and demonstrate Nigeria’s commitment to the protection of IP for the stimulation of international creative industries trade.
Short and medium to long term, we need also to be able to track sales and revenue to understand trends and audience /market behaviours for business and investment decision-making.
If I had a dollar (sorry not naira – you know why) for every time a Nigerian creative entrepreneur said to me ‘ we need funding’ chances are, the sector wouldn’t need so much funding! The sector does need funding for infrastructure across the value chain, innovation, research and development, marketing and market development activity and local and international PR and promotion.
I think however, that this funding will not necessarily come from commercial banks – at least not all of it. It needs to be a mixed economy model of funding, that combines grant, equity and debt financing from various sources including government, venture capital, angel investment, foreign direct investment and the tried and trusted fallback from friends, family and fools who believe enough in their kith and kin to invest in the sector.
At the moment, there isn’t a coherent national level strategy that sets an agenda for developing the industry. I think it is overdue. I think that national strategy needs to stimulate a multi-level (federal, state and local government) raft of legislation that seeks to create a supportive, enabling environment for the whole sector by addressing issues in a holistic, long-term, sustainable way. Legislation needs to incentivise investment and enterprise in the sector, stimulate risk taking and the implementation of big and bold business ideas and facilitate regional and international trade in the sector.
Linked to all I’ve already said, the sector needs access to affordable training, production, distribution infrastructure but also to adaptable and comfortable workspace, broadband and high quality equipment among others. Long term, patient capital (back to money again) needs to be deployed to creatively plug the current gaps in the industry to facilitate growth.
Ah! They have brought light so I need to go and put on the A.C and mindlessly thumb through my kindle for the rest of the afternoon. So I need to summarise the rest.
I think the sector needs specialised business support (advisory services, information, mentoring etc.), leadership (a small group of people who are committed to the greater good of the sector and who pursue that agenda with stakeholders and decision makers), data and market intelligence and various other ingredients that fail to come to mind now that I am rushing to finish and enjoy the AC before NEPA ‘takes the light’.
Ojoma Ochai, best known as Director Arts, British Council, is also Entertainment Specialist for the World Bank Growth and Employment Project, member UNSECO Expert Panel on the 2005 Convention (Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression), wife to a really patient hottie, and mother to two insomniac boys.