Verifiable Data and the Nigerian Creative Industry

Verifiable Data and the Nigerian Creative Industry

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It would have been what some call a surefire deal. A movie producer, intrigued by the production rate of the Nigerian home movie industry and the potentials for returns inherent in a country with over 170 million people and perhaps triple that number across sub-Saharan Africa, decided to do an online search for film crews and locations to produce a Hollywood standard blockbuster. At first the figures and names provided by random Google searches showed immense promise, especially as the much vaunted 2nd and 3rd placement of Nigeria’s movie industry got credible backing from internationally recognised organisations.

However, it almost instantly went downhill from there. High international ranking, it turned out, was not backed up by verifiable figures and stated volume of production could not be buttressed by incontrovertible distribution figures. The movie producer, who before he began searching was eager to put money in what he/she expected to be a vibrant industry, suddenly developed cold feet and decided to take his investment elsewhere, and the Nigerian movie industry, AKA Nollywood, missed a 200 million dollar investment.

The narrative above is not derived from factual events, but this does not mean that it is improbable or that verifiable data on Nigeria’s film industry is not very hard to come by—a situation that is also endemic across the country’s creative industry sector.

We say the sector is growing, and we expect this growth to be supported by data on the industry. This is not the case.

Despite Nollywood’s world ranking and the worldwide interest this generates, no comprehensive study on the industry exists. At the moment, attempting to draw a standard investment map for Nollywood is akin to building castles in the air. This lack of readily available information makes it impossible for government, investors and donor agencies to effectively calculate the input and output of the industry and plan policy to reflect the potential.

At a recent event that drew the creative economy players in Nigeria, Chief Tony Okoroji, who has over 20-year experience working in various capacities within the music industry, narrated how a dearth of factual data was a source of embarrassment for him at an international meeting with his peers from other music sectors in the world.

“there was no data to back up our stories of growth,” he said as stakeholders came together on August 1, 2013 to launch the British Council sponsored Creative Industry Mapping Project, which aims to close the information gap created by this lack of verifiable data.

The experience of Chief Okoroji mirrors what other industry people have experienced and narrated about perceptions of the Nigerian creative industry within the international creative and investment sectors. It is also an experience that local investors are very familiar with. While it is true that there is an upsurge of economic activities, largely self-funded, within the creative industry sector, how much is being generated, who is generating what and where investors and government could come in remain salient questions, and the only way to answer them is to ensure data is available to those who need it, whenever and wherever they need it. This is important because one of the biggest obstacles to growth in any endeavor is lack of the right kind of information. Without information one cannot effectively plan. In business, and here we have to agree that creative businesses are important as any other form of business, having the right kind of information is key.

At the Stakeholder Forum/Launch of the Creative Industry Mapping Project, The Country Director of the British Council, David Higgs, took time to explain what the project entails and why the British Council is embarking on one in Nigeria. The stakeholders were made to understand that mapping, in this regard, is essentially research into the various creative subsectors to provide economic and non-economic data such as job creation, contribution to GDP, needs of the sectors and opportunities in the sector etc.

From the above, it is should be obvious that mapping the Nigerian creative industry is more or else a win-win for the sector and an important variable to forecast and plan for the sector’s future growth, and not forgetting the highlighting of investment opportunities.

For the British Council, the mapping project is not a shot in the dark. The British creative industries were first mapped in 2001 and the project is credited with kick-starting the British government’s recognition of the sector and its sustained intervention in it. At the moment, the British creative industry sector is worth more than 36 billion pounds a year and generates 70 thousand pounds a minute for the UK economy. In terms of export, the UK creative industry accounts for 1 pound of every 10 pounds the country earns through export.

Now, these is the kind of data that would have made our hypothetical investor above not look away, especially when the data available is, like the UK example, easily verifiable.

The Nigerian government is already showing increasing commitment to support the creative industry. Everyone who has an interest in the sector already knows about the 3 billion Naira Intervention Fund recently announced by President Goodluck Jonathan for Nollywood. Before this we had the 200 million dollars fund earmarked for the entertainment industry, also by the president. What we need now are clear-cut policies that factor in real time data about the industries or sectors these funds are meant for. And that is what the creative industry sector mapping will achieve.

More information about the creative industry mapping project is available here.

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