Succour might well be on the way for players in the creative industry who have long contended with the issue of finance after the maiden Creative Nigeria Summit.
HAVING resorted to various ingenious ways to fund their productions over the years, it was no surprise that the creative industry financing summit held on July 17 and 18 at Eko Hotels, Victoria Island, Lagos was very well attended
Both established and upcoming players in the creative industry were present at the conference themed ‘Financing the Film, Television and Music Industries’ organised by the Ministry of Information and Culture in conjunction with Think Tank Media and Advertising.
The quality attendance, as well as the uncommon patience participants demonstrated even when deliberations continued well into the evening, underscored the importance of funding for creative endeavours.
But more than the impressive attendance was the robust deliberations and engagements between government and practitioners who had achieved the feat of creating a vibrant industry with just their sweat and blood.
Welcoming participants, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, referenced this – the travails of producers in getting money. He said, “From my interactions with industry stakeholders since assumingoffice, one issue has stuck out like a sore thumb: lack of access tofinancing is a major bane of the Industry. Instead of just lamentingover this, we have decided to tackle the problem headlong, hence the decision to host this conference. I have no doubt that at the end of the series of events here, we will be able to come out with a wayforward that will surely boost the industry.”
Mohammed, who added that the conference was the latest effort by government to transform the creative industry to a creative economy, reiterated that the current administration would do everything toremove the obstacles hampering the growth of theindustry. The summit, he added, will be an annual affair.
Significant player in economy
The address by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, who declared the conference open, was sweet music to ears of participants. He laudedthe contributions of the creative industry to the economy and disclosed that government would give tax incentives to investors in the sector.
Osinbajo, who was represented by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun said: “The creative industry in Nigeria is a significant player in the economy. It is an industry that represents 1.42 of our GDP and has a huge export earning and in its own right employs millions of people. Without any investment by government, it has grown organically. The creative industry, represents everything good about Nigeria. The creativity that you have demonstrated in a sector government doesn’t fund is incredible.
“For you to go to the next level there’s a need for more. To take the industry to the next level, we’ll need to step in. You need government to enable you seek funding. One of the things we are to address is direct government funding. Government will provide tax relief for those who are ready to venture into the creative industry. While government is running around to see how it can collect more taxes, we are also looking at ways to give incentives to people to encourage them to invest. We will look at a situation where we can create a pool of financing for the industry.”
But, Osinbajo added a caveat: Government would be cautious in funding the sector because “sometimes too much money is harmful to the creative industry; you need to strike a balance. Government will continue to support you but we don’t just believe in giving grants. The creative industry has become a major export earner for Nigeria; your success is one of the stories we want to tell about our diversification effort.”
The first plenary session, where ‘government’s role in funding the creative industry’ was discussed, set the tone for the robust engagement between government and players in the sector. While filmmaker, Ose Oyamendan moderated, Yewande Sadiku, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) and producer of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, and Ayo Subair, chair, Lagos Internal Revenue Service, were the panellists.
Oyamendan, a skilled moderator, alternated the discussion between the panellists, government officials and practitioners in the audience. He asked Sadiku how her movie ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ adapted from the same titled novel by ChimamandaNgoziAdichie,would have done with government intervention.
Government’s main responsibility, Sadiku submitted, is governance, formulation of policies and provision of infrastructure. She added that film producers need different types of financing including grants and equityas well as a solid distribution network and prompt certification for screening. She narrated how the delayed certification of the movie by the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) affected its fortunes.
Sadiku further held that “the secret about the creative industry is that government doesn’t understand it; many of the operators also don’t understand it. The value it translates to is more than you can capture in financial terms; there are the economic, educational and social values and it would be useful if government provides incentives.”
She disclosed that the NIPC is updating the list of groups that qualify for incentives under the pioneer industry status and that aspects of the creative industry would be included. Sadiku also said it would be nice for government to look for investors into the industry and give them tax breaks.
Tokunbo Akande who stood in for the LIRS chair, concurred with Sadiku. He said government’s role was to provide infrastructure that would boost the industry and that “direct funding may not be the solution.”
Speaking on what the role of government should be, producer of ‘76’, TonyePrincewill, said it should provide tax incentives, infrastructure and tackle piracy headlong.
President of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Tony Okoroji also said that government should tackle piracy. “I am happy about the crash in the price of oil; maybe that will make us look at the creative sector. Pirates are not spirits, all that’s neededto tackle them is liver,” he said to applause from participants.
On what government wants from the creative sector, the Information Minister said: “We want better information, better engagement. We are not your adversaries, we’re your co-travellers. Give us evidence based research that will make us understand you better. We need to understand ourselves better.”
All’s well that ends well
It was a satisfied Mohammed who addressed journalists at the end of the summit. Appraising all that had transpired, he gave a positive verdict, affirming that it was two days of robust exchanges on financing the film, TV and music industries as well piracy, infrastructure and law enforcement.
But most importantly for him is the fact that the summit “has opened our eyes. It has reduced the gap between the government- regulators and the stakeholders. We have also been able to make the stakeholders appreciate the fact that today, the creative industry cannot survive without strong regulation, without strong collaboration with intellectual property lawyers, IT experts and the financiers. It became clear that the creative industry does not only need better protection from government but also need to examine the old way they have been doing things.”
On financing the industry, Mohammed said, “the takeaway is that no longer can we use the old financing system to finance this industry. We must now use venture capital. And to this extent, I am happy to announce that I have invited 20 people to invest $50,000 each in the venture capital which will be used to help upcoming artists. And as at this evening, we have had eight people who have accepted to invest in this venture capital. Venture capital is not a grant, and the people are investing, not donating the money. And it will be used the way venture capitals are used to develop such industries elsewhere.”
He also allayed fears that the summit would just be a talk shop. “We have set up a committee that will follow up with the resolutions and decisions of this meeting. We left this meeting more resolved that there will be more cooperation between government and the stakeholders.”
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