By Chuks Akamadu
In his paper titled “The Task of Harnessing Nigeria’s Entertainment and Creative Resources for Sustainable Economic Growth: Obstacles, Prospects and Opportunities”, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture had, at the 1st Nigeria Entertainment and Economic Roundtable which held in Lagos on December 17, 2020 stated that the “arts, entertainment and recreation sector contributed N156.5 billion to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018”.
The Honourable Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba whose paper was titled “The Imperative of Mainstreaming the Creative and Entertainment into the Nigerian Economy”, got a number of us worried when he informed the distinguished audience that “the creative and entertainment industry contributed 2.3 percent, approximately N239 billion to the nation’s GDP in 2016”. And the reason is simple: the 2016 figures are brighter than that of 2018, with the latter posting a shortfall of N82.5 billion at a time the sector ought to be doing much better in line with the economic diversification aspiration of Federal Government.
However, the good news is that both ministers appear to share the view that the industry can and indeed should perform better hence their respective ministries’ active participation at the Roundtable which theme was “Positioning the Creative and Entertainment to Lead Private Sector in Supporting Federal and State Governments’ Efforts at Achieving Urgent Economic Diversification”.
While in agreement with Mr. Oscar Onyema, Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) who remarked at the Roundtable that “the Nigerian Entertainment Industry is growing by leaps and bounds…”, I as a stakeholder, mince no words in commending the Federal Government for its numerous policy interventions and grant initiatives designed to support the creative and entertainment industry. However, the bare fact is that there are still gaps – which are, without a shred of doubt – responsible, in large parts, for the cold scenario above.
One, the conversations around the industry and how to make it perform better has to, at this point, proceed quickly from government’s manifestly good intentions and benevolence to a robust, regular cross-fertilization of ideas between the practitioner and the policy maker, with a view to approaching the industry’s numerous challenges from a position of shared knowledge and with clinical precision.
Two, there is a perception challenge whereby the creative and entertainment industry is perceived, in error, to be and treated by quite a number of stakeholders as a matter domiciled in the exclusive list of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). There is no denying the fact that sub-national entities – the 36 federating states and 774 Local Government Councils are yet to constructively engage the federal government for mutually supportive, mutually reinforcing and mutually beneficial collaborations along the entertainment superhighway.
Three, the private sector on its part is yet to fully tap into the abundant potentials of the industry, largely because a majority still enjoys seeing the entertainment and creative sector from the lens of leisure- as opposed to recognizing it, rightly, as a veritable tool for economic growth, job creation and social inclusion.
Four, the practitioners themselves who, no doubt, have done incredibly well seem to be focusing too much on government and sitting on their fortunes when the ace cards are actually in their hands. And Who says they cannot do much better than they are doing at present – especially in an era where the market value of Netflix has climbed to $196billion, overtaking that of ExxonMobil which currently stands at $166billion?
Further, taking cognizance of the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on Africa’s largest economy and the recession that has crept in on our economy, has it not become imperative for a potential cash-cow like the creative and entertainment industry to arise and take its rightful place in our nation’s economy by contributing much more to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP)?
The Real GDP growth which is projected to rise to 2.9% in 2020 and 3.3% in 2021 ordinarily should not be seen as being “ambitious” if crude oil is downplayed and entertainment alongside agriculture and mining are elevated as national economic priorities. Rather more importantly, now that the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration which emphasizes economic diversification terminates this year, stakeholders would want to know what the successor-plan looks like and what priority is accorded the creative sector – in our dear nation’s enlightened self-interest.
It was against the foregoing background that the 1st Nigeria Entertainment and Economic Roundtable was conceived to be a robust platform for mutually profitable engagement between creative and entertainment industry practitioners and their diverse stakeholders on the one hand and the federal and state governments on the other hand, on issues of policy, regulatory framework, legal regime, growth and general industry environment – especially in the face of worsening vulnerability of crude oil prices and the imperative of jerking up internally generated revenue (IGR) of the three tiers of government.
The whole idea is to cultivate a culture of dialogue among stakeholders and galvanize the requisite critical mass needed to transform the industry into a modern money-spinning machine with potentials to set the entire culture-tourism landscape on a path to economic prosperity.
The central objective of the Roundtable is to urgently design an inclusive industry framework for stimulating and re-energizing the economy to stabilize and flourish sustainably amid COVID-19, post COVID-19 and in the face of unprecedented crude oil dwindling fortunes.
On the other hand, the vision is to be at the forefront of optimal harnessing of Nigeria’s vast entertainment resources, potentials and assets for the overall economic wellbeing of the nation, sub-national entities and individual Nigerians – where everybody would be a winner.
With the maiden edition of the Roundtable behind us, what is left to be seen is stakeholders stepping forward to take ownership of the initiative for the purpose of sustainability and how swiftly the government (all tiers) would move to mainstream the industry into the nation’s economy.
Akamadu, ESQ, FIPMN, M.IoD, MNIPR, MNIM, MITP is the director-general, Nigerian Entertainment and Economic Roundtable.
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