By Armsfree Ajanaku
WITH the unending volatility in the oil sector, the discourse around economic diversification in Nigeria has sought to elevate the importance of growth in the non-oil sector. Beyond the push for revenue, economic experts have for long harped on revenue-boosting capabilities of non-oil sector exertions, which would ensure the nation’s economic survival, while tapping the energies and skills of the country’s very youthful population for national prosperity. Unlike the sordid experience in the oil sector, where the vast majority of citizens have been largely alienated from the production and benefit-sharing processes, the attraction in the non-oil sector is that it fosters active participation of the everyday citizen in the resource generation process.
Within the context of benefit sharing and overall accountability framework for resource distribution, participation is self-sustaining in the non-oil sector because outcomes motivate the enlightened interest of beneficiaries to advocate better governance and evolution in the respective areas of non-oil sector endeavours. On the whole, therefore, the diversification debate goes beyond the rhetoric of being less dependent on ever volatile oil. It speaks to the need for critical thinking and the presence of mind to look inward and tap the many tangible and intangible resource treasures Nigeria is endowed with. In essence, the diversification discourse, even in the non-oil sector, should look under-explored areas, which constitutes low hanging fruits which would bring quick wins in the immediate and further impact in the lives of citizens in the medium to long-term.
One such area is the culture and creativity sector, which has been long recognized for its potential as a low hanging fruit in the economic diversification matrix. While the benefits have been touted, what is left is to think through strategies, and explore synergies across the industry and government to put culture and creativity on a sound footing, such that it begins to make much more substantial contributions to the resource generation matrix of the Nigerian economy. As things stand, for instance, an industry like Nollywood in spite of the limitations of the Nigerian environment has defied the odds to rise to global reckoning. For an industry that has thrived majorly on the resilience and the can-do spirit of citizens, there is no doubt that much more could be achieved especially in this era of technological innovation if creativity and culture entrepreneurs get the kind of backing and investment, which would empower them to play as real brands, targeting niche areas in the sector.
It is in this context that creativity and culture entrepreneurs have commended and latched on to the policy statements on culture and creativity so far made by the Buhari administration. Specifically, a lot of positive vibes have been coming from the Office of the Vice President, in terms of providing vision, direction and traction for culture and creativity. For instance, the Buhari administration declared through the Office of the Vice President that the creative industry is a significant player in the economy representing 1.42% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and has huge export earnings and in its own right, employs millions of citizens.
Significantly, the Buhari administration has further portrayed the sector as one which possesses the qualities needed for the prosperity and stability of Nigeria. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo specifically extolled the sector for being “diverse, universal, non-religious and non-tribal.” This portrait of the sector makes it clear that it is not just the economic value that it can add that makes it critical. At a time of many upheavals across the country from Boko Haram, herdsmen killings to IPOB agitations in the South East, the industry should be called upon and empowered to douse the tension in the land.
These visionary policy statements from the government have inspired the formation of creativity and culture initiatives. The latest of such ventures is the Heritage Africa Village Square (HAvis), an initiative conceived as a one-stop pan-African centre for the conception, production and expression of the cultural resources of all the peoples of African descent. It was founded on a vision to assert the creative sector as a massive opportunity for Africa to harness the huge potentials inherent in the creativity of its peoples. HAvis seriousness to tap the potentials in the culture and creativity sector is underscored by its investment in a 1000 seat the Amphitheatre and the Whitehouse comprising a gallery, a language institute, a library, a multimedia studio, a terrace/rooftop space. HAvis, which sits on the famous Jabi Lake, also houses a 9-hole golf course, a proposed boat club, a hotel and a hotel among other facilities. Future development plans also include the ‘African University of Creativity’ dedicated to helping young Nigerians and Africans hone their natural talents, acquire skills and build their professional capacities and personality profiles.
To underscore its commitment to promoting national values, while fostering international dialogue and exchange between Africa and the world, HAvis will host a major culture fest on October 1 to mark the independence anniversaries of Nigeria and China. Headlining the programme is a lecture titled: Global Diffusion of Chinese Culture: Case Study of the Confucius Institute in Africa (Nigeria) to be delivered by Professor Duro Oni, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, and founding director of the Confucius Institute at the university. To be chaired by Professor David Ker, a culture scholar and former Vice Chancellor of Benue State University, the lecture will lead to a panel discussion featuring four eminent scholars and experts on the blossoming Africa-China relationship. They will explore the possible influence of the legendary Chinese philosopher, Confucius’ philosophical thoughts on the socio-cultural development of Africa.
The highpoint of the October 1 feast is a special exhibition featuring collections from Nike Art Gallery, which is curated by the international artist and iconic African culture advocate, Madam Nike Okundaye. Featuring over 100 pieces of paintings and sculptures, the works will remain on display in the Whitehouse gallery for the rest of the year. There will also be art and craft workshop for about 100 students and youths drawn from around the Federal Capital Territory. The sessions will be directed by Madam Okundaye herself, reputed to have trained over 1000 women and youths in adiire fabric making, African body adornments and related accessories.
Armsfree Ajanaku, a journalist and culture enthusiast, writes from Abuja. He can be reached via:email@example.com