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 Keynote speech at Creative Economy Convention ’23 – “Fixing Nigeria: The role of creativity and culture”

GOOD day, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I am honoured to be the keynote speaker at the Creative Economy Convention ’23, organized by OYA Media. I want to thank OYA Media for this opportunity and their commendable initiative to create a platform for dialogue and action on fixing Nigeria’s pressing challenges.

Among many other roles that I have held and still holding in the art sector in Nigeria, I am a Professor of Theatre Arts, Theatre Technologies and Performance Aesthetics and also the General Manager/CEO of the National Theatre in Nigeria. It stands to reason that I have witnessed firsthand the power and potential of the creative sector in Nigeria. The creative sector is a source of cultural expression and identity and a driver of economic growth, innovation, and social inclusion.

According to a recent report, Nigeria’s creative industry is the country’s second-largest employer and has the potential to produce 2.7 million jobs by 2025. The report also estimates that the creative sector contributed about 753 billion Naira (roughly 53.5 billion U.S. dollars) to Nigeria’s GDP in 2021, with motion pictures, music, and fashion being some of the most valuable segments. The creative industries also include design, publishing, and software. These aforementioned components of the creative industry have made Nigerians global icons and celebrities. Globally, Mega sports events have Nigerians acts headlining entertainments during interludes. 

The creative economy is the sum of all the parts of the creative industries, including trade, labour, and production. It is based on knowledge, creativity, and innovation, essential for any economy to thrive in the 21st century. The creative economy can also address some social and environmental issues Nigeria faces, such as poverty, unemployment, inequality, insecurity, and climate change.

However, despite its achievements and potentials, the creative sector in Nigeria faces many challenges that hinder its growth and development. These include inadequate infrastructure, lack of access to finance, weak intellectual property protection, limited skills development, low-quality standards, and unfavourable policies and regulations. These challenges require urgent attention and action from all stakeholders: government, private sector, civil society, academia, media, and most importantly, creative practitioners.

It is pretty difficult to solve our problems without paying adequate attention to lower strata. To overcome the deluge of socio-economic challenges of Nigeria, policy makers and all relevant stakeholders must, apart from the Government pay attention to what happens at lower levels such as companies and individual economic behaviour. Concerted effort should be made by all to address the hydra-headed socio-economic and political problems militating against mankind in general and Nigeria in particular.

The need for this emphasis arises from the fact that more often than not, analysis of Nigeria’s social, economic and political conditions or lack of well-being focuses entirely on the role or contribution of government and political leaderships to that state of affairs. We generally tend to lose sight of the crippling input made by other forms of leadership to the nation’s socio-economic and socio-political failures – the nation’s captains of industry, leading entrepreneurs, etc. The fact is, the extent to which the national economy is compromised at these levels is huge.

The theme for this convention – “Fixing Nigeria: The Role of Creativity and Culture” is apt. There is a reciprocal interaction between culture and creativity in such a way that creativity is not only influenced by culture, creativity in itself impacts on how a culture develops and accepts creative products and ideas. Both are essential twins in the understanding of change and development. While creativity is associated with the way human beings confront change and growth, culture on the other hand, reflects a people’s way of conceiving reality and that reality includes their attitude and principles about creativity, change and development. Since culture encapsulates a people’s way of life, creativity becomes pertinent in such people’s understanding and interpretation of their existence. Creativity is an essential life skill courted by individuals and corporate entities for the advancement of their experience.

Countries around the world rely on the creative economy to produce jobs and growth, to stimulate innovation, to fuel tourism, and to promote culture. This is so, because creativity is important for people and society on many levels. Aside generating personal satisfaction, it is also important for economic development. Being creative means solving a problem in a new way. It means changing your perspective. Being creative means taking risks and being daring. When creativity positively impacts culture, the latter, in addition to its intrinsic value, provides important socio and economic benefits. It enhances our quality of life and increases overall well-being for both individuals and communities.

This is one area where the National Theatre under my watch has excelled, keying into the Government’s mantra of change and thinking out of the box. National Theatre before now was basically into rental of halls to the public, neglecting programming which globally, is the hallmark of any resourceful and efficiently run National Theatre. But with the creative initiative of the new management team, programmes have been introduced and have recorded tremendous achievements; giving the National Theatre mobility and broadening its relevance.

Collaborations in line with Private Public Partnership (PPP) initiative is also remarkably ongoing with the recent comeback of Nigeria Breweries PLC for the Abe Igi remodeling and new business interests after years of abandonement. Initiated programmes include:

  1. Cottage Theatre Development Series
  2. Talent Hunt
  3. Sight and Sound of the Durbar
  4. Exhibition of Nigerian Royal Regalia and Paraphenalia
  5. National Festival of Horns and Flutes
  6. National Theatre Monograph Series
  7. Open Theatre Series
  8. Digital Music and Studio Projects
  9. National Theatre Quarterly Public Play Reading
  10. National Theatre Academy for Film, Performing and Allied Arts
  11. National Theatre Radio, etc
  12. All these are meant to thrive on the principle of PPP and the few ones that have taken off have thrived largely on goodwill.

This convention serves many purpose for diverse interests seated here today. However, the most immediate purpose of this convention for us at the National Theatre is its proximity to the completion of the ongoing renovation of the edifice and its facilities. The outgoing government and CBN/Bankers Committee injected 100 Million Dollars (N21.8 Billion) into reviving the National Theatre. This is a show of commitment which is the first of its kind since the National Theatre was commissioned in 1976. Added to this renovation is the establishment of 4 creative hubs in Music, Fashion, Film and Information Technology. These are geared towards energizing the creative potentials and resourcefulness of our teaming youth for greater economic gains. Another way the government has recently impacted the sector is the signing of the new copyrights law. These two noble acts represent just a few of the instances where the government has intervened positively. The onus is on us to be more creative and further make suggestions that will shape policies of government.  

The deliberations and resolutions to be reached here today and the others that I have facilitated in the past are going to set the agenda for the New National Theatre and the new administration in Nigeria. It is my fervent conviction that without public private partnership we cannot harness the full potentials of the creative industry.   

That is why this convention is so important and timely. It is an opportunity to share our experiences, challenges, opportunities, and best practices in the creative sector. It is also an opportunity for us to identify concrete solutions and actions that can unleash the full potential of the creative economy in Nigeria. We must work together to create an enabling environment for the creative sector to flourish and contribute to Nigeria’s development. By the end of this convention, I believe we will have a clear vision and action plan for advancing the creative economy in Nigeria. I hope we will also have a renewed sense of optimism and confidence in our abilities as creative practitioners to make a positive difference in our society.

This convention will inspire us to think creatively and act collaboratively to fix Nigeria through the creative economy and our cultural resources. I look forward to hearing from you all and learning from your insights and perspectives.

OYA Media and Oya, the Goddess

OYA Media was founded in Lagos in 2018 by multi award-winning Producer, journalist, TV personality, social critic and humanitarian, Funmi Iyanda. OYA is an international production company with offices in London and Lagos. The media is committed to tell great human stories through original universal content crafted across film, television, diverse interactive platforms and events. The outfit also works locally to source talent and create content that resonate internationally. OYA’s vision is to take stories, mostly of and from Africa to a global audience, feeding the world a more expansive viewpoint from our collective humanity.

Now I Ask Funmi, what inspired the creation of OYA Media? If it is Oya the Yoruba goddess of winds, lightning, and violent storms, death,

and rebirth., then OYA Media is here to change our creative narrative and enterprise. In Yoruba mythology, Oya is revered as a goddess of fertility, death and rebirth. She is believed to be the bringer of life-giving rain and the protector of crops, as well as a guide for the souls of the dead to the afterlife. As a warrior queen, she is also associated with courage, strength, and leadership, and is often called upon for protection during times of war or strife, or to help people overcome obstacles, navigate difficult transitions, and embrace new beginnings.

Like many other gods, she is both sweet and sour.

I dare say that Funmi Iyanda, the founder of OYA Media, spots many of the attributes of our goddess, Oya. Funmi is a distinguished individual with strength of character, discerning courage, a visionary with sterling leadership qualities.

She is dogged and determined; a fighter in the face of daunting obstacles. Like Oya, her OYA Media has begun to bring about change and transformation to our creative industry. Through OYA platforms, she is telling our own stories with universal relevance and bringing genuine meaning to human essence and mankind. This Creative Economy Convention is a very useful addition to the ongoing conversation to expand the Nigerian economy through the creative industry. I am convinced and hopeful that the new incoming government would be strategically deliberate in growing our economy with the creative industry as a critical component.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to OYA Media’s Creative Economy

Convention, 2023. Thank you.

Thank you for your attention.

Prof. Sunday E. Ododo  fsonta, fsna, fana, fta, fnipr, faan, FNAL — General Manager/CEO