June 14, 2024

The Southeast creative economy: The way forward

  • November 24, 2023
  • 11 min read
The Southeast creative economy: The way forward

Keynote address delivered by FRANK NWEKE II at the Eastern Nigeria International Film Festival (ENIFF) on November 23, 2023, at Crisp TV, Enugu.

THE creative economy encompasses industries and activities driven by intellectual and artistic expression. It includes sectors like design, advertising, film, fashion, software development, information technology, and more. This economic segment relies on creativity, innovation, and intellectual capital for its value.

While this may be a film festival with a focus on the entertainment, arts, and media industries, it is apparent that they do not exist in isolation from the other industries within the creative economy. They enjoy a symbiotic relationship with technology as the major catalyst in the value chain.

For instance, the reason the digital music market in Nigeria is projected to reach $101 billion in 2023 is because of innovations in the technology space that provide streaming services for distribution and ingenious methods for marketing and promotion. Just last week, we celebrated the nomination of Davido, Burna Boy, Ayra Starr, Asake, and Olamide, five Nigerians at the Grammy Awards. Nollywood grosses about $600 million annually, benefiting immensely from the entry of streaming platforms such as Iroko TV, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. The Nigerian fashion industry is expected to generate $1.31 billion in revenue in 2023 and more Nigerian creatives are taking the stage at international fashion shows. Okadabooks created opportunities for new independent authors to have their works published. I was sad to hear that they would be shutting down their business at the end of November due to the macroeconomic conditions of the country. Still, this fledgling growth has the attention of international investors and partners who are getting more excited about the prospects of the creative industries in Nigeria. Just a few weeks ago, Bloomberg released a documentary on the growth of technology in Nigeria. The use of Industry 4.0 technologies opens new opportunities for the creative economy. Three-dimensional (3D) printing, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR), blockchain, cloud computing, drones, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are driving the fourth industrial revolution. They have created new avenues for producing, distributing, and consuming creative goods and services while reaching a more comprehensive range of consumers globally. In the words of Thomas L. Friedman, the world has been made flat and connected by technological innovation, reducing the barriers to entry into various industries. Technology has given us a great opportunity to tell our own stories without intermediaries and change global systemic biases against our nation.

Frank Nweke II delivering the keynote address for Eastern Nigeria Int’l Film Festival in Enugu

According to Statista, in quarter 2 of 2023, the creative economy contributed $4 billion to the Nigerian GDP of $66.84 billion. Motion pictures and music recording accounted for roughly $197.6 million of that figure, with the technology sector being responsible for $3.4 billion of the total figure. Compared to $53.5 million recorded in 2021, that is a growth of nearly 400% for motion pictures and music recording.

Globally, the creative economy is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world, generating annual revenues of over $2 trillion and providing nearly 50 million jobs worldwide. In Nigeria, a 2021 report by Jobberman projected that the creative industry would employ 2.7 million more Nigerians by 2025, in addition to an existing 4.2 million already working in the sector. We are only at the nascent stage of a sector with the potential to radically transform our personal, regional, and national fortunes.

Behind these numbers is the reality that the creative economy is at the intersection of various economic and social sectors, providing a vast range of opportunities for young people with varying interests. Every sector has a story that needs to be shared. Every government needs to adequately communicate with their citizens. Every business needs the attention generated from creative and digital advertising. Everyone needs the catalytic power of technology to leapfrog progress and success. We need a cultural revolution and values reorientation. The opportunities are as far as your imagination can take you and the creative economy can be a strategic pillar of our overall development plans. In terms of the Sustainable Development Goals, this sector can effectively increase our chances of achieving all of the seventeen goals because of its dynamic nature.

In the southeast, we enjoy particular advantages waiting to be exploited. We have a teeming population of young people, our rich culture, diverse experiences, beautiful landscapes for film locations, dozens of educational institutions, and an innate spirit of entrepreneurship.

We have talents that cut across all facets of the creative economy from technology to fashion, arts and entertainment. This is evidenced in the stars that have come out of the region. From the older generation of Pete Edochie, Nkem Owoh, Oliver De Coque, and Amaka Igwe to the Nollywood catalysts such as Genevieve Nnaji, Chidi Mokeme; our superstar musicians as Flavour, and IllBliss to a much younger generation starring Zorro, Jidekene, Linda Ejiofor and many more. We have a tech community that has grown through the years despite low support and poor economic conditions. Some of these are companies that have created products and services which placed us on the global map. Some of my favourite examples to give are Greenage Technologies and Genesis Hub. The exploits of our Aba brothers and sisters in fashion manufacturing are well known. We are sitting on fashion gold waiting to be mined.

I have participated in art exhibitions and competitions, food festivals, and music competitions. I have witnessed movie screenings, worked with a young artist to release a full-length single, and patronised the works of fashion and art entrepreneurs. All in the southeast here, facilitated by young entrepreneurial citizens and residents who call this place home.

These are assets we must harness for our social and economic development as a region. During my campaign for the office of the governor of Enugu State, I noted the need to bring the film industry back to the coal city. We promised to establish a film village and deploy funds for entrepreneurs in the industry. We also promised to host an annual innovation summit and exhibition on creativity and technology, to attract established companies and investors, while showcasing our local talent and potential. But these, among others, were to be precipitated by one underlying factor – the availability of a conducive environment for businesses to thrive and for investors to feel comfortable.

Our goal has to be the creation of an enabling environment for the emergence of these creative talents, products, and services for our local market, providing a platform from which they can project their voices and attract guests and investors to the southeast, and concurrently, export these talents, products and services to other parts of the nation and the world.

Our leadership must take the gauntlet to build the systems and infrastructure required, with the understanding that the creative sector has the potential to catalyse personal and regional economic growth, facilitate cultural revolution, and promote social integration. We can no longer see this sector as an add-on, but a critical part of any sustainable development agenda. The government must show the political will, which many refer to as the ‘body language’ and follow through with real policy actions to address the challenges in the space.

Due to the multi-sectoral nature of the creative economy, the adoption of effective cross-cutting mechanisms and innovative interministerial policy action is required.

Chris Obi-Rapu, director of Living in Bondage in 1992 (as Nkem Mordi) conducting a workshop on film directing

Security and basic infrastructure

FIRST of all, the insecurity in the southeast must be addressed squarely. No meaningful development can occur in an atmosphere of insecurity. Investors and movie makers would rather go to places where the safety of their crew and cast is guaranteed. It is essential that solving the insecurity problem takes priority in the strategic direction of the government. I have shared on many occasions what I believe the government must do to address the prevailing insecurity in many parts of the southeast. Permit me to refer you to to the blog section on my website for the details. www.franknwekeii.com.

In addition to security must be the provision of basic infrastructure. The same conditions needed for humans to thrive are also required for businesses to thrive. Water, power, roads, health and other basic human necessities must be made available across the region. I must commend the ongoing road repairs in Abia State. In a market-driven economy such as ours, and with the spirit of entrepreneurship otherwise referred to as ‘hustle’, the government only has to provide the right infrastructural and regulatory environment. The private sector players will facilitate the growth of the sector.

Collaboration for data-driven policies

IN terms of policies for the creative economy, they must be strategic, localised, data-driven, and culturally responsive. The sector remains largely unorthodox in its structure, informal in many ways, and working without the requisite organization that would make government intervention effective. This calls for strong collaborations and ongoing strategic partnerships with creative innovators and entrepreneurs for practical policies that will move the industries forward. You can’t effectively make changes without understanding the sector from the point of view of the players and within the context of our culture and social behaviour.

Boosting institutional capacity

WE have the benefit of dozens of institutions of higher learning and secondary schools in the southeast. We have hundreds of religious bodies and some fledgling art centres. We must utilize and boost their capacities to revive creativity through education and collaborations with the performance and visual arts stakeholders. We can revive the theatre culture in our secondary schools by instituting statewide competitions at the local levels. Schools can partner with technology companies to create internship programs that train youngsters for future skills. I know that Genesis Hub and Greenage Technology currently do this. I also partner with the tech community through NzukoLabs to equip young women with digital skills that are desperately needed in our world today. There must be a systemic and inclusive approach to encouraging these partnerships.

Improving Internet Penetration

AS I shared earlier in this address, the rapid growth in the creative economy is highly facilitated by technological advancement. It is critical that increasing broadband penetration across the Cities and Satellite Towns, for a start, is of utmost priority to us. Youngsters are improving their economy by broadcasting their creative content on the internet. It is one of the lowest-hanging fruits in the sector, and we must encourage it by providing the digital architecture required for it to flourish.

Private participation amid macroeconomic downturns

WHILE advocating and anticipating clear policy directions and actions from the government, private citizens and businesses must continue to take advantage of the opportunities we have in the region to tell our stories and create channels of distributing them for our local use and global consumption.

Our young and aspiring artists must take advantage of opportunities afforded by events such as this film festival and a few others that take place across the region. Build connections and partnerships that can scale your projects. Those who have access to it must take advantage of the technological advancement that is driving what we know as the fourth industrial revolution. With access to consumers in different parts of the world, you can expose your work to potential partners while growing a large audience.

As consumers, we must also support the works of our creative minds, from the established AfiaTV to the local content creators sweating to stay consistent on the Internet. I will also emphasise the place of advocacy to drive policy changes from the government. We can never get tired of asking for what is right and what is due to the citizens and the state.

I congratulate Ujuaku and her team, and many other conveners who have remained steadfast through the years to create platforms for the projection of eastern entertainment to the world.

I bring this address to a close by calling for collaborations in the region to produce concerted and consistent efforts towards building our creative economy. Competitors must become worthy rivals who challenge themselves to grow. The older and more experienced players should become the springboard on which the younger generation leapfrogs to greater achievements.

The creative economy is a major key to cultural revolution and economic transformation. We must take advantage of it.

Thank you.

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