BusinessDay

Leveraging innovative technology for Africa’s creative sector

With the introduction of new digital technologies and, more recently, developments in robotics and artificial intelligence, the world is currently undergoing a digital revolution that dates back to the early 2000s. The digital revolution has ushered in new ways of thinking about work, with far-reaching implications for business and social activities in a variety of disciplines and industries. And the creative industry is one of them.

In recent years, the global creative industry has witnessed a revolution engineered heavily by innovative technologies and tools that have amounted to major developments, expansion, visibility and a multitude of possibilities. These technologies have further bridged the gaps that existed between creators and their audiences, modified how users interact with creative products and created a multiverse of new digital artists with limitless potential to bring their art to life.

But how can the creative sector effectively exploit these benefits, and what roles can creatives play?

These are some of the questions we explored at the panel session of the 2022 edition of AfricaNXT, a platform keenly focused on serving a global community eager to connect to Africa through diverse programming and immersive experiences. I was joined by Abuchi Peter Ugwu, CEO of Chocolate City; Daniel Owolabi, Label Manager, Sony Music Africa and Nissi Ogulu, Creative Director Creelo Animations Studio, to discuss the impact of innovative technologies on creative industries but with a focus on Nigeria.

At Paramount in Africa, we have a keen eye on the future of the continent’s creative economy and are devoted to assisting players in the sector in identifying and capitalising on the opportunities that exist. It is no longer enough to merely possess creative abilities; creatives must actively pursue new ways to mine their abilities for extensive reach, profit, and impact. These barriers and opportunities are some of the topics we brought to the fore on the panel.

For Abuchi, the creative business in Africa, like in other societies, is driven by consumers. The proliferation of technology has made it possible for consumers of creative content to make demands and seek greater control over what and how they consume content. They demand content that is customised to suit their specific and constantly evolving needs. This makes “communication really important”. Consumers seek a huge level of interactivity and collaboration with creators. These varied and authentic demands place an increasing measure of obligation on creators. They must meet their consumers where they are and deliver— in Daniel’s words— “clear-cut form content” as required, and the only way to do so is to embrace innovative technologies.

Nissi encourages artists, particularly the younger generation, to think beyond the box when it comes to utilising the potential of technology. “Explore possibilities beyond your comfort zone, examine the success stories and potential blunders of artists like Drake, who not only understand the power dynamics between artists and technology, but are also utilising the latter to remould the narrative,” she advised.

Streaming is a low-hanging fruit in the world of revolutionary technologies.

Wizkid became the most played African artist in April 2021, with 3.5 billion streams on Spotify alone, a milestone made possible by Wizkid’s unwavering efforts to engage with his fans in creative ways. Wizkid, alongside Africa’s three most successful acts, Burna Boy, Davido and Tiwa Savage, have mastered the science of strategically utilising new tech platforms and social media to create unique and personal experiences for their fans, allowing them to also expand their influence in the process. These efforts are in addition to a creative restlessness that ensures they consistently and continuously churn out relatable content and forge productive links with other local and international artists that strengthen their numbers.

This is not to say that creatives must sacrifice quality for quantity. In the process of strengthening numbers, exceptional attention must equally be paid to content quality to ensure authenticity, accuracy and relatability. This is where the local partnerships earlier mentioned come to play. Creatives, especially those who quickly go global, have a tendency to lose touch with their homegrown audience by creating pieces of work that no longer appeal to the sensibilities of this important segment or carry them along.

Read also: Nigeria’s creative industry gets capacity boost with Phoenix project

One guaranteed approach to solve this is what was recently experienced with Davido’s hugely successful outing at the O2 Arena in London. The show was livestreamed for the Nigerian audience in Nigeria who had closely monitored and supported but could not attend in person, thus bridging a geographical gap. Leveraging technology, O2 Arena was brought to their devices in realtime and accounted for over 700,000 streams. This further underscores the value of technology and collaboration in the creative industry.

Other forms of immersive technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality are also available for creatives to explore. While it is too early to prescribe which one will have the farthest-reaching impact, it is crucial for creatives to educate themselves on all the options that exist with an intention to take full advantage of them. As already established, consumers/users are unstoppable in their quest for new ways to access and consume content. Creatives who are either on their heels or ahead are the ones who will stand the test of time.

Conversations and discourses like this one are some of the ways we help these young creatives build an interest in original and inventive thinking, and also stimulate their creativity in cases where it is latent.

While we at Paramount persist in our contributions towards advancing the creative industry in Africa, we cannot overemphasise the role governments play. In Nigeria, for example, the government has been instrumental in building infrastructure that supports creatives especially in the area of data gathering and evaluation. Creatives need to measure audience reach, engagement and other similar metrics, and the government has made that possible with scientific audience measurement platforms. Daniel, however, calls on the government to do more in the area of financial investments that can expand the ecosystem and the development of creative hubs to accommodate new and upcoming creative talent.

While creativity is the generation of new ideas, innovation is the successful exploitation of those ideas. African creatives must unpack innovation and identify ways to maximise it to their advantage and that of the industry.

Johnson, the country manager, Paramount, writes from Lagos

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