This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

Creative Industry: A Journey to Resilience and Potential

Vanessa Obioha

The once-frenzied mood that accompanied Nigeria’s independence celebrations has waned in recent times. Where there were fanfare and street parades, with Nigerians proudly waving their green and white flags, now only a few clusters of such celebrations remain. The reasons for this change in mood are not hard to fathom. Nigeria’s leadership and economic challenges have left little room for a celebratory spirit, given the dwindling fortunes of the Naira and the soaring cost of living.

However, amidst these challenges, one sector continues to illuminate the hearts of Nigerians on notable days – the creative industry. Divided into media and entertainment, beauty and lifestyle, visual arts, as well as tourism and hospitality, by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), it has been a beacon of hope and success. Recently, its significance was underscored by President Bola Tinubu, who established the Ministry of Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy to oversee this burgeoning sector.

The Nigerian creative industry has come a long way since Nigeria gained independence. While it encompasses various fields, it is the entertainment sector, especially film and music, that has propelled it to remarkable heights.

Nigeria’s history in the sound and sight medium dates back to pre-colonial days with Geoffrey Barkas’s 1926 feature film ‘Palaver’ being the first feature film to have Nigerian actors. The 1930s and 1940s witnessed a boom in the establishment of cinema houses across the country by foreigners. That same era saw the beginning of Nigerian cinema, thanks to the Yoruba travel theatre groups which featured Nigerian actors prominently.

This cinematic boom persisted after independence, with more Nigerian filmmakers coming into the spotlight in the 1960s, though concerns arose about the influx of foreign films. However, the Indigenization Decree issued by the then head of state Yakubu Gowon in 1972 allowed the transfer of ownership of about a total of 300 film theatres in the country from their foreign owners to Nigerians. 

With the establishment of the first television station in Nigeria, the Western Nigerian Government Broadcasting Corporation (WNTV) which began broadcasting on October 31, 1959, the ‘70s was a good time for Nigerian cinema until the 1980s when a significant decline was recorded. This was largely due to the decline in revenue from the sale of crude oil, which was the country’s main foreign exchange earner, which sent the country into an economic depression. Therefore celluloid films which was the medium at the time could hardly subsist on individual funds as access to funding became difficult. However, the disappearing cinema houses gave rise to the home video boom which began in the late 1980s and surged astronomically in the 1990s. A notable film that marked this era was Kenneth Nnebue’s 1992 film ‘Living in Bondage.’ 

The 2000s witnessed Nollywood’s ascent to becoming the golden child of African cinema, despite facing quality and piracy issues. Nigerian films were relished and narrated by millions across the continent. It was during this period that Nollywood achieved the enviable status of the third largest producing film industry in the world.

However, this dominance was a mixed bag of hopes and disappointments. While the stories told were gripping and entertaining, the production quality was poor and piracy hindered most movie producers from making profits. Even the industry, despite being the third largest producing industry, was valued poorly due to cheap production. Most of these obstacles were mainly caused by economic challenges such as lack of funding and poor access to distribution channels. Nevertheless, the industry became a big employer of labour. As of 2007, with a total number of 6,841 registered video parlours and an estimated 500,000 unregistered ones, the estimated revenue generated by sales and rentals of movies in Lagos alone was estimated to be N804 million (US$5 million) per week, which adds up to an estimated N33.5 billion (US$209 million) revenue for the state per annum. The total sales revenue generated by the film industry in Nigeria was estimated at N522 billion (US$3 billion) per annum, with broadcast content valued at N250 billion (US$1.6 billion) during this period.

Given the rise of the industry, investors started trickling in. From banks like Ecobank which sponsored Project Nollywood to media and entertainment company MultiChoice Nigeria which not only trained filmmakers through its New Directions initiative but also provided a platform, Africa Magic, which turned 20 years old this year, for storytellers to tell their narratives and be heard in millions of households across the continent. 

The 2010s ushered in a new era of cinema production, leading to record-breaking revenues. By the end of 2013, the film industry reportedly hit a record-breaking revenue of ₦1.72 trillion (US$11 billion). As of 2014, the industry was worth ₦853.9 billion (US$5.1 billion) making it the third most valuable film industry in the world, behind the United States and India. It contributed about 1.4% to Nigeria’s economy; this was attributed to the increase in the number of quality films produced and more formal distribution methods.

Seeing the resilience of the people, the government began paying attention to the industry, starting with the President Goodluck Jonathan administration which provided grants and loan facilities to the industry.

Today, as technology takes storytelling to greater heights, Nollywood is not left behind. The top streaming platforms in the world all have their eyes set on Nollywood. Think of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and even Showmax owned by MultiChoice, all parade original Nigerian productions which are viewed globally.

While the cinema culture has become somewhat elitist, Nigerian cinemas, however, are playing host to premieres of most Hollywood films and with facilities like Ogidi Studios taking part in the production of one of Hollywood’s great films, ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.’ 

Moreso, Nigerian films are gaining acclaim in international festivals such as CJ ‘Fiery’ Obasi’s ‘Mami Wata’ which won the Special Jury Award for Cinematography at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

The story is not different in the music industry where artists like Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Tems, Rema, and Ayra Starr are breaking boundaries with Nigerian sounds, be it afrobeats or afro-fusion.

Before the current explosion in the music industry, musicians like the afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, and veteran juju musician King Sunny Ade had captured the attention of the world such that foreign record labels set up shop in Nigeria.

These artists are selling out international venues, bringing home international awards such as the coveted Grammy awards and even causing a dynamic change with most international awards creating an afrobeats category to recognise their amazing talents.

The fashion industry has made great strides, particularly with platforms like Lexy Mojo-Eyes and his global campaign for Nigerian fashion as well as the Arise Fashion Week which pools the cream of the fashion world globally to its stage with iconic pieces that showcase the beauty of African culture. 

Undoubtedly, the creative industry is a goldmine. With the right investments and infrastructure, it’s poised to generate even more significant revenue. Research data from Jobberman indicates that it already generates $4.2 billion, and with continued support, it could balloon to $15 billion by 2025.

Nigeria’s creative industry is a testament to resilience and untapped potential. As the Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer of Temple Company, the owners of Ogidi Studios, Idris Olorunnimbe aptly put it, “Nigeria is a goldmine of such local talents, waiting for the right platforms, investments, and partnerships to morph into global icons.” 

The future of Nigerian creativity is bright, and the world is watching.