Africa is rich in arts and culture. This rich heritage has attracted admiration and patronage from other continents all through history.
It is encapsulated in her folklore, music, arts, music, myths, religion and relationships. The continent’s numerous tribes, immense cultural diversities and innumerable tongues are the harbingers of this wealth.
From Tunisia to South Africa, Somalia to Mauritania; Africa’s rich cultural heritage influences her society, instilling values while transmitting experiences from one generation to the next.
In transmitting the experiences across generations, Africans are telling their stories and impacting the world through arts and culture, a portent heritage. Indeed, African arts and culture have played a significant role in shaping the culture and history of the world.
It is, therefore, no wonder that this year’s theme for the Africa Day celebration was “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa we want.”
The theme calls for Africa and Africans to move beyond the nomenclature of showcasing its rich culture, arts and heritage. It is completely in sync with our belief at BCG that it is time for Africa to begin concerted efforts to optimising its heritage to drive economic development, social cohesion and enhanced perception for the continent.
Thus, we celebrated Africa Day 2021 by exploring Nigerian arts and culture through this lens.
The Nigerian arts, crafts and cultural expressions have continued to gain recognition as a key contributor to her socio-economic development. The key vehicles through which this has been achieved include music, drama, fashion, visual arts, literature, food, festivals etc.
The Nigeria film and drama industry has enjoyed local and international recognition. From the theatre to motion pictures, actors, playwrights, and players across the spectrum have used their work to create employment, attract foreign exchange and contribute to national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2019, according to the Nigerian Box Office Mojo, Nollywood grossed $3,147,429 (N1.1 trillion).
In addition to the entertainment and economic values that their works bring, they have been used to achieve softer values such as retelling our history, triggering healthy political debates, fostering social cohesion, celebrating and addressing social injustice.
Currently, there is an explosion from the youths on the music scene. Through their arts and music, Nigerian youths have continued to promote the continent’s heritage beyond its borders. Recognition and collaborations with leading global entertainers such as Beyonce, Drake, Wyclef Jean, and Chris Brown are testaments.
In recent times, Nigerian artistes have received nominations and awards such as Grammy, BET Awards, MTV Europe Music Awards etc.
In another collaborative effort, Mr Eazi, a music entrepreneur, launched emPawa Africa, a talent incubation initiative designed to nurture and promote young African artistes. This initiative is supported by YouTube Music.
Through this initiative, Nigerian youths have remained engaged. This has helped reduce idleness, which has been proven to sometimes lead to criminal and anti-social behaviours.
Concerning literature, Nigeria parades some of the best writers the world knows today. Take Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ben Okri, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, etc., the international success of the Nigerian authors attests to their talent and depth in contemporary literature.
Through their works, they have shared authentic Nigerian stories, introduced the world to our rich culture and enhanced the global perception of the country.
Mai Atafo, Og Okonko, Frank Aghuno, and Allyson-Aina Davies are few within the cadre of visionary designers who are actively reimagining the potential of Nigeria through the lens of fashion. These stories are told in stitches, culture preserved within the patterns, styles sewn up within the seams; they have taken the Nigeria fashion from a local style to global haute couture.
Despite these lofty achievements by Nigerians, there is still more to be done by the stakeholders in the entertainment industry; including the government, investors, actors, etc. This starts with recognising the huge opportunities the creative industry holds for diversification and foreign direct earnings, a key focus of the current administration.
Experts insist that despite the good intention of governments around the world in lifting the restrictions on travels and tourism in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, tourists and travelers will not be quick to travel for cultural experiences. This however provides an opportunity for invaluable experiences to be creatively packaged and exported for economic value.
According to PWC Report, the entertainment and music industry generated N239 billion ($795 million) accounting for 2.3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2019, with a plan to achieve $1billion in 2020. While the $1 billion targets may not have been achieved, concerted efforts in funding, policy reforms, capacity building and global collaboration will help drive an increase in revenue for the industry and the economy as a whole.
Funding can be generated through public-private partnerships and foreign investments. Funds generated can be deployed into driving the digitisation of the consumption modes and distribution channels. Infrastructural deficiencies including high-quality cinemas, film villages and international exchanges can be addressed with funding. With the integration of technology, government and industry stakeholders can better track data and revenue, monitor and effect change as may be required.
In addition, policy reforms must begin with strengthening existing laws that deal with the twin menace of piracy and intellectual properties (IP) theft. Stricter laws and penalties should be implemented against infringement.
Tax waivers and incentives should be available to producers. Contracts should protect all parties, especially the artists, and ensure royalty payment.
To build capacity, these artistes and filmmakers should be sponsored on local and international training including film courses. There should also be capacity and skilling for contemporary trends such as animation, visual effects, gamification etc. to ensure exportable content. Industry regulators should be trained on piracy and copywriting.
It is especially important to drive international collaborations. To achieve this, deliberate efforts should be made to draw up agreements for co-production, knowledge sharing, access to international festivals and awards.
With increasing exchange and co-operation between cultural entrepreneurs and artists from Africa, Asia and Europe been strengthened, Nigeria must use these relations to promote trade.
The Nigeria entertainment industry currently creates over a million jobs and contributes to the nation’s GDP. Besides the job creation potential, the industry is renowned for its power to influence cultures and behaviour.
Governments have been known to use the industry’s influence to effect critical change in societies. This is precisely why governments need to strategically engage the industry to help drive the change we want in Nigeria and across Africa.
The content of the films, music and documentaries can be used to propel behavioural change among people. It can be used to create consciousness for salient societal issues and advocate for change.
Arts and culture can be used to drive economic development, instigate change in our communities, influence government decisions and earn Nigeria and indeed, the African continent, international recognition and accolades.
By Tolu Oyekan (vanguardngr.com)