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Nigeria’s creative industry needs more creatives

It is no secret that the Nigerian creative sector is an exciting space to be in right now and is growing exponentially, what is more interesting is that the sector is driven by young people. From film to music and fashion, young Nigerians have turned what is often considered ‘informal work’ into a hub for exporting Nigeria’s culture across the continent and the world. With Netflix debuting the first ever Nigerian-produced Netflix original in 2018, a globally renowned fashion industry and Grammy award-winning artists, Nigeria’s creative industry is proving itself time and time again on the global stage. In 2016, the creative sector contributed an estimated $11.8billion to Nigeria’s GDP and there are projections that Nigeria’s growing entertainment and media (E&M) market will be the world’s fastest by 2021. Broadcasting, motion pictures, music and fashion are some of the highest contributors to the economy.

According to Jobberman research, the creative sector currently employs an estimated 4.2 million Nigerians, making it the second largest employer in the country, and has the potential to create an additional 2.7 million jobs by 2025. As the creative industry continues to grow, so will the demand for talent. Amongst other issues, the ability of the sector to create jobs for young Nigerians is limited by the skills gap identified across key roles, largely due to a dearth in institutions that prepare talent for the industry. We see that although there are young people interested in the various interesting opportunities across the sector (mostly as independent workers/freelancers) many do not possess the required skills to meet the expectations of the employers. While recruiters are more likely to come across a larger pool of talent at the beginner or intermediate levels, the growing industry is now beginning to demand more advanced skills.

Employers are increasingly giving more focus to soft skills during recruitment and are shifting from an emphasis on certifications to practical tests and experience shown in CVs as the basis for recruitment. Where young creatives through independent learning are able to have a reasonable amount of competency in creative skills at the beginner to intermediate level, they are not conscious of the importance of soft skills to their career. Roles like digital marketing, graphic design and other tech creative roles are in demand to support the dissemination and increase the quality of creative output. Besides the creative roles, the sector needs the involvement of more professionals like project managers, business consultants, customer support, lawyers, and accountants to help improve the structure of the sector, negotiate fair contracts, and attract both local and foreign investors to build sustainable financing/wealth for the sector.

We have identified skills gaps across the sector especially in top performing industries including media, entertainment, visual arts, lifestyle as well as tourism and hospitality. Nollywood sits behind Bollywood in second place for the movie industry with the largest output, and it’s only going upwards. In 2018, the media and entertainment industry generated $4.46 billion in revenue, a figure that is expected to more than double in 2023 to $10 billion. However the industry has key skills gaps in cinematography and videography, as well as editing, writing, acting, sound & lighting, among others. In the midst of big wins in the music industry with glowing success from Burna Boy and WizKid at the Grammys, the music industry is lacking crucial skills in talent management, writing, and record production. Nigeria’s fashion industry has also found itself on a global stage fom Kenneth Ize’s Paris Fashion Week debut in 2020 to Naomi Campbell, walking down the catwalk at Lagos’s Arise Fashion Week in 2019 and 2020. However, as we have established across the sector there is a significant skills gap in the fashion industry especially in skills like Sewing, Sketching, Illustration and Fabric Design. Sewing specifically suffers as employees struggle to gain advanced skills and experience that employers struggle to find. Outside these sectors there is significant unmet demand for professional photographers, hairdressers and booking & ticketing solutions,

The creative sector provides opportunities for women, especially in Lifestyle & Beauty as well as Tourism and Hospitality to express their creativity and for self employment, as it provides flexibility to balance the pressure from the home and has also lower barriers to entry.

Despite the success of women such as Genevieve Nnaji, Lisa Folawiyo and Tiwa Savage in their respective industries, women generally take a backseat in the sector, playing mostly in the informal space, with more formalised players in the sector being men. This can be largely attributed to lack of access to capital.

Even at a policy level, this male-female disparity exists, for example the recently inaugurated Creative Industries Committee has only six women out of 22 members.

Other noteworthy factors limiting female participation in the sector include social norms and the paucity of opportunities for female education and empowerment in some regions. Societal programming for women participation is also somewhat limited as communities tend to consider the aspirations of women to health, skills and education as an afterthought. This phenomenon presents the need to support women in the creative sector and ensure that the platforms they participate in are mainstreamed as it will ensure they are well remunerated and provided with necessary benefits and opportunities such as access to finance and financial education, international recognitions as well as leadership positions within the creative sector.

It has been established that the creative economy presents significant opportunities in improving employment outcomes for young people especially women. There is a massive range of jobs and career paths available across various industries in the sector such as Media, entertainment, fashion designing, visual art, and tourism all of which can potentially create an estimated 1 million jobs each year if the potential of the sector is fully harnessed by addressing the lack of formal structure and standardization of the complex value chains in the sector.

Investment in skills development through the inclusion of soft skills and digital skills into the curriculum presents an opportunity to solve the skills gap and reduce the backlog of an analog reality. Hence, galvanising efforts to upskill young people with the necessary skills to take advantage of the tech advancements and the the fourth industrial revolution is an imperative. There is also a need to map apprenticeship/internship structures and provide mentorship and career opportunities for budding talents. to create a linkage with employers so that the skills gained they mainstream are relevant for the market.

To support the growing interest of women in the industry and the opportunities to empower women, there needs to be a gender-responsive policy focused on leveraging women’s interests while addressing women-specific needs will be helpful.

The sector requires significant investment in infrastructure and the creation of a friendly regulatory environment for the creative economy to grow and shift from being largely informal to formal with a sound legal framework, and distribution channel. There are existing loans and grants that should be taken advantage of across sectors with the opportunity to attract foreign creative players into the local ecosystem to invest and set up businesses, hubs, and training centers.

Reimagining the future of the creative sector will require substantial investments in skills development, prioritising regulation, improving working conditions for women while also supporting the sector with funding and enabling a business environment that supports innovation.

Agbakosi is Consulting Lead at Jobberman Nigeria

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