The British Council’s Creative Industry Expo – iCreative – ended last weekend and was no doubt a welcome milestone: a delightful coming together of the brightest and best from the arts, entertainment and all round creative industries.
For a nation that witnesses few of such events centered on the creative, you can understand the excitement the 3-day iCreative generated across the country. Even more so as many of the Nigerian government’s activities in the creative sectors have been more hollow than impactful.
Of course, if this were the Department of Cheap Shots, we would mention that it’s a great shame it had to take the tax payer’s money of the British Government to facilitate such an important event, but what’s more productive explore are the perspectives and insights that emerged from three days when we had some of the drivers of the creative industries in Nigeria and the United Kingdom – including academics, creatives, entrepreneurs, policy makers and investors.
Perhaps most illuminating was the third day’s session on a Policy Framework for the Creative Industries, where the pair of Efere Ozako, a lawyer with a range of A-list clients in the creative sectors with over 10 years experience and Mo Abudu, TV talk show host and frontline investor in Nigerian television engaged the duo of EcoBank’s Ola Akinola and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State.
There is a lot to like about Mr. Amaechi, including his refreshing candour in and out of his domain, his accomplishments in office, even the fact that his entrance and exit from the venue was without the usual fan fair that trails public officers in Nigeria, he drove himself to and out of the Expo Centre, drawing no attention to himself. He is perhaps one of the best in the land that is Nigeria’s government at the moment.
However, and unfortunately, Amaechi’s comments at the expo revealed so frighteningly the fact that things remain the same no matter how much they have changed. The creative industries might have made giant strides – even beyond the cliche successes of Nollywood and our music industry reaching the lights of technology, gaming, online media, and the gamut of the arts – enough to require a 3-day Expo matching those of the oil and gas industries, but it doesn’t mean the rest of the country is paying attention or gaining enough understanding.
The Governor posited the Accidental Theory which emphasises the disorganized nature of the industry, and he then leverage on that to excuse government’s inertia. EkoBank’s Mr. Akinola advised, “You need to speak the language of bankers.” Ms. Abudu alleged to the banker, “You guys are only running after oil and gas money.”
In trying to accuse creative industry practitioners of a certain cluelessness with regard to finance, investment and partnerships, those on “the other side” displayed a convenient ignorance of the potential that this industry as a whole presents for anyone who will commit time, effort and understanding to tapping it.
Yes, it is the job of the creative industry practitioners to continue to find the best ways possible to sell their ideas and expand; but banks exist in order to stimulate financial growth for a nation’s economy at the end of the day, and government is invested with the duty of facilitator – guiding, supporting, patiently encouraging. Government doesn’t really have the luxury of shifting blame.
No matter the failings of the industry, one which has already done so much by itself for itself, it is the responsibility of any serious minded government to ensure that it continues to grow, it continues to shine, it continues to employ as many young people as possible in a globalised world.
That is the tone we sought but did not find with the representatives of the ‘other side’, as we heard them snidely speak of the inadequacies of various arms of the creative sector.
There is unfortunately no room for smugness, especially not with the amazing potential in a new flat world that the creative industries present. It’s no longer enough for board room frat boys to employ the industry only when it’s time to win hearts and mind for political position. It’s time to humbly seen to link arms to support the industry to realize as much of its potential as possible.
The only persons whom this would be a favour to are ourselves, as Nigerians. It’s unwise to wait until the oil wells dry up.