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N7Bn bank support in view: NEPC moves to create an export-driven art economy in Port Harcourt

* University don calls for standards and quality control * If successful, model to be replicated in other Niger Delta states

With N7Bn bank support for the creative industry in view, the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) has identified Rivers State as a good zone to create an export-driven art economy and hub that could play strong roles in the coming free trade era in Africa and beyond.

The is as practitioners said that 90 per cent of leading practitioners in the Nigerian film industry (Nollywood) have their background in Port Harcourt due to the pioneering role of the University of Port Harcourt Art school together with departments such as theatre arts and others.

NEPC has through its south-south zonal headquarters brought together the art & craft community to lay the ground works so as to harness the potential already identified in the sector. The organization says art is Nigeria’s main entry point in the world after oil, saying there is growing demand.

The zonal coordinator of NEPC, Joseph Itah, while opening the workshop at Aldgate Hotels in Port Harcourt on Thursday, August 27, 2020, said the plan seeks to midwife the Rivers creative community into the N7Bn creative industry fund set up by the Bank of Industry (BoI).

He told the industry leaders thus: “The Federal Government recently (February 2020) established the Creative Industry Fund Initiative (CIFI) with the provision of N7 Billion for the Bank of Industry to cater for 35 selected firms in the sub-sector.

“This fund would be deployed to content production, content distribution, equipment sourcing and digital transmission among other value-chain development in this services’ sub-sector.

“It will also be capacity building platform where members can acquire skills in e-marketing, market research, business planning, social media engagement and policy advocacy amongst others. This is the goal of our Trade Information Management System program for the Creative Sector.”

He added that four key sub-sectors (the Film Industry, Digital Multimedia, Contemporary Arts, and Cultural Crafts) are identified for discussion at the workshop. “We realize that the target market, value chain, corporate scale, manpower needs, opportunities and challenges of these sub-sectors vary significantly even though they share some common contextual realities. It is based on this that we have invited key stakeholders and leaders in these sectors to share ideas on finding solutions to the challenges in accessing the international market.

“It is also our hope to build a robust database of your members through our online survey, with their unique positioning and segmentations to help us understand the dynamics in the sector for policy advocacy purposes.”

Itah noted that the creative industry operates mostly in the informal sector which he said controls over 60 per cent the economy and is the fastest growing sector.

In her presentation, the head of department of Fine Art & Design, Pamela Cyril-Egware, called for standardization of artworks and creation of facilities, equipment and support to develop a viable art business in the Niger Delta, saying there is huge reservoir of materials and topics to explore in terms of culture of the people.

The lecturers called for boost that would attract investors because to earn, one had to spend. She asked for regular inspections and exhibitions to create awareness and boost participation with art galleries, exhibitions, museums, and mounted visual works everywhere in the Niger Delta.

On the way forward, the had of product and marketing in the NEPC (Port Harcourt office), lined up critical actions including database, websites, online grouping all aimed at creating an active and interactive art community that would be on same page and work together to take create a hub in Port Harcourt as use it as a model for other states in the region.

The workshop with the theme; ‘The Role of Arts & Crafts Exports in Economic Development of Rivers State’, looked at Strategic Initiative for the Creative Sector Education Using Web Technology by Cyril-Egware. The Rivers State Government’s Strategic Objectives for the international Exposure of the Creative Sector; an Enabling environment, Stakeholders’ collaboration and policy Framework was handled by Ogwunka Anoriochi of the Ministry of Art, Culture and Tourism who amended his topic to ‘Rivers State Strategic Objectives in Promoting Art for Economic development’.

Itegbe handled the ‘Next Action and drew huge applause. Top practitioners and industry leaders also made strong input on how to develop an art economy in the oil region as oil dwindles. One of Rivers earliest scholars and foreign trained sculptors now a pastor, Patrick A.P Jumbo, called for revival of the enthusiasm that launched the state tops in art and culture.

Bartholomew Gerald Aguugo, chairman (emeritus), Actors Guild of Nigeria, Rivers State Chapter, as well as Michael Ibanmi; President, Rivers Visual Arts Association and Michael Ibanmi, president of visual arts society in Rivers State, demanded for definite steps to move forward, while Mike Ogolo, a versatile comedian and university lecturer, urged the NEPC to lead the fight for a creative economy in the oil region.


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