By Eniola Otoki
Nigeria has held the title “giant of Africa” for so long, despite the level of corruption, poverty and degradation that pervades the country.
Two major things that have helped her retain this title are; the booming entertainment industry and the oil and gas sector. For the longest time, since its discovery in our lands, oil and gas has been Nigeria’s foremost export and trade. It has brought some credit to the country and also dragged us through the mud. It has heighted the level of corruption and greed, and has brought little or no development with it despite the billions made from it.
The oil and gas sector could easily be said to be the major reason Nigeria has remained at its current level of poverty and under-development. You expected me the say the opposite? No.Nigeria has become so dependent on the oil and gas sector, so much so, that it looks like we would be nothing without it. The regions that are rich in oil like Port Harcourt and Bayelsa states have the laziest youths in this country. They are entitled to payments because oil companies have taken their lands and they sit around and wait for these monies with pride. These regions are also mostly undeveloped as all the monies are sent to the central before states are allocated funds. And then there is the issue of corruption, but this is not the concern of this article so allow me move forward.
Nigeria is rich in oil, no doubt, but Nigeria is also rich in Cocoa, cashew, ginger, palm oils etc. In 2019, Nigeria made a revenue of N4.6 trillion in 11months from oil and gas. In only the first quarter of 2019, Nigeria made the sum of N39.6 billion from the export of sesamum seeds, which has been Nigeria’s agricultural product export’s biggest earner for the past years.
Similarly, in the first quarter of 2019, fermented Cocoa beans generated a sum of N20.1 billion, and this was due to a 19% decline. A sum of N4.3 billion was generated from the export of in shell Cashew nuts while N1.21 billion was made from shelled Cashew nuts.
Natural cocoa butter generated the sum of N1.22 billion for the country. And these are only some of Nigeria’s top agricultural exports, done on a medium scale. Let us not also forget that these numbers are from the first quarter of the year only.
Just imagine the revenue that could be made if agriculture was given the kind of priority given to oil and gas. Rather, the leaders remain hell bent on devoting all efforts to the oil and gas sector.
Agriculture has done great but this is still not the subject of subject of this article. The concern here is the entertainment industry and what it has been able to achieve in terms of image and visibility for Nigeria. The revenue it has been able to generate and the value it has added to the country as a whole. The entertainment industry is a strong export from the country and I dare say, its biggest and most significant.
This is because, asides revenue which came in at N1.3 trillion in 2018, the industry exports our culture and way of life. We might never be able to achieve cultural imperialism, but at least as far as Africa is concerned, we would be able to get ourselves followers. People who emulate our culture, just because they have become familiar with it through our movies. Or those who speak our languages because they have listened to far too many songs with our local dialects embedded in them.
The Nigerian entertainment industry has been going all out and doing the most in portraying Nigeria in the most favorable light. It was music that brought Cardi B to Lagos and Accra, thanks to LiveSpot, a top experiential agency in Nigeria. She had never been to Africa, if not for entertainment, she never would have. And her experience at the music concert would define her perception of the country, not the stories told by CNN.
Burna Boy has just recently made Nigeria recognized on the world stage as he was nominated for the Grammys. Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Patoranking, Davido, etc, all internationally recognized for their music, shutting down concerts home and abroad. These are stories that others would want to associate with. All around Africa and beyond, you would hear Nigerian songs, we are recognized.
Nollywood, despite heavy criticism or maybe due to it, has been able to step up their game, from storylines, to sets, lights, delivery and production. Movies like New Money, Bling Lagosians, King of Boys, Merry Men, Okafo’s Law, Isoken, The Wedding Party, to mention a few, would make you proud of the industry.
Netflix doesn’t buy films for the fun of it or because they have too much money. The Nigerian movies you find on that app have passed a level of scrutiny. If you browse through them, you would notice that they are not the average Nigerian film, they have some exceptional quality. AY Makun has done great with his 30days series; 30 days in Atlanta, 30 days in Sun City, 30 days in Jamaica and he has more coming as he has sealed a deal with a Chinese movie group to produce 30 days in China.
When CNN talks about Africa or Nigeria, it is usually to portray something negative, and they are not always wrong, there are a lot of things that are not going well in this country, but nothing is ever all bad.
What the entertainment industry has been able to do is show the world the not so bad aspects of our lives and culture. We might have money from oil and gas, but how many foreigners want to come to Nigeria solely based on the stories they hear on the news or on twitter? How many companies want to do business here after hearing about our political system, tax rates, plus the epileptic power system? Lifestyle is a huge commodity; our colonial masters knew this. It was what they sold to us. Not mirrors and not clothes. That is why till date, we have high regard for their lifestyle, language, and culture. And how did they do it? Through their films and of course religion.
It is the step that we must take in our growth. At any point in time, our revenue from oil could drop as more and more nations discover oil in their own soil. One thing we can’t run out off and that no one else can suddenly have is our culture, our languages, our lifestyle, this is our biggest export.
Follow the trends, Africa is the destination place of the moment. Westerners are beginning to see the beauty in what was previously considered primitive, they are beginning to see the value in what was hitherto considered valueless. This is the time to embrace all that is ancient and beautiful, repackage it, and share it with the rest of the world. This is the time to leverage on assets with which we have been blessed and tell our own stories in the way that would be favorable to us.
This would not only affect our image but also our economy. Think tourism, think investments. This would in turn create more jobs, which would help ameliorate the lives of citizens. If we have tourism as a major source of income, we must invest in environmental development. From there, it is a gradual rise to the developed society which we have always wanted.
Photo Credit: Bella Naija