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Culture sector boom undermines the case for protectionism

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The continued successes of the Culture sector of the Nigerian economy are one poignant example of the case against the protectionism Nigeria has pursued in the last four years allegedly to protect local industries. The Nigerian film industry, as well as the music segment, continues to demonstrate that Nigerian economic players do not require any contrived protection to excel. What they need above all is an environment of policies that enable them to unleash their competitive and comparative advantage.

Read Also:  Nollywood boom hints at needless FG’s protectionist policies

Take Nollywood. In three weeks in November 2019, Living in Bondage set a box office record of N103 million, recording more turnover than any other movie, local or foreign.  Data by the Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria shows that Living in Bondage drew more patronage than the second highest-grossing film, Disney Studios’ Maleficent. The Disney film hit N96million in six weeks, twice as much time as Living in Bondage.  American science fiction film The Terminator: Dark Fate took four weeks to gross N78 million in third place.

The success of the sequel of the film that set Nollywood on its path in 1992 follows a trend of box office successes for Nigerian movies since the return to the cinemas and better production values. Even more spectacular successes have attended films such as The Wedding Party and King of Boys at the cinemas. Nigerians trooped to the cinemas to appreciate the productions.

Filmgoers did not need the federal government compelling people to watch only local movies, banning the entry of foreign films or prohibiting them from watching them. As an analyst noted, “Nigerians are not necessarily hooked on foreign films. Instead, they are hooked on quality and affordable items, be they local or foreign, and the successes of the film industry is proof.”

Nigerian films are doing very well on Netflix, Africa Magic and other channels and platforms for movie consumption. They also excel on Spotify for music. Indeed, Nigerian movies were the inspiration for the birthing of the African Magic channels on DSTV, and they have the most channels on the platform.

Or take music. Nigerian artiste Burna Boy recently earned a nomination for the  Best World Music Album at the upcoming 62nd Annual Grammy Awards and topped the Top Ten list of African musicians compiled by CNN. Five Nigerian artistes featured in the compilation. They include Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Mr Eazi and Wizkid.

African Giant, the album that fetched the Grammy nomination, was released in July featuring the collaboration of major global studios and producers. It is the fourth studio album of the artist. The collection is an ambitious mixture of Afro-fusion, Afrobeat, dancehall, pop and hip hop.

Culture is an area of comparative advantage for Nigeria. Nigeria now has a vibrant and growing cultural industry that responds to consumer demands with best practices in production values. The movie and music industries have thrived with no protectionist walls from the government. They employ more staff than the civil servants that service Nigeria’s bureaucracy. Citizens across the African continent and the Black Diaspora consume their products while they compete admirably against foreign movies and music at the increasing number of cinemas and platforms in Nigeria.

Protectionism refers to government actions and policies that restrain international trade, often done with the intent of protecting local businesses and jobs from foreign competition. Typical methods of protectionism are tariffs and quotas on imports and subsidies or tax cuts granted to local companies. From an abrupt land border closure to restrictions on importation of some items, the Federal government has been keen to protect domestic industries against foreign competition.

The successes of our cultural industries contradict the economic and political reasons for border closure and other aspects of the protectionism wall. BusinessDay agrees with analysts that the best measures would be closing the infrastructural gap, better management of the key rates and economic policies that enable the release of the energies and vibrancy of Nigerian entrepreneurs rather than unsustainable border closures or tariff walls.