CIFI and Forex earning potentials of National Arts Theatre

The Bankers’ Committee last week awarded contracts for the rehabilitation of the National Arts Theatre in Lagos and the exercise is slated to start in September. CHIMA NWOKOJI in this report looks at how the multi billion naira CBN-led project will boost activities in the sector and open new windows of forex generation, job creation.

REMODELING of the National Arts Theatre under the ‘Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre’ was part of a resolution made by the exclusive forum of chief executives of Nigerian banks and directors of different departments of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The CBN and the bankers had agreed to support the creative industry through the transformation of the edifice into the Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre.

To that effect, a Memorandum of Understanding and contract award signing ceremony was organised between the Federal Government, represented by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and the Bankers’ Committee, represented by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele.

Speaking during the signing of MoU for the handing over of the Theatre to the Bankers’ Committee by the Federal Government last year in Lagos, Emefiele said the project would restore the glory of an iconic building by aligning most of the fabric and equipment and facilities in the building with the aesthetics of the 21st Century.

The Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI) is a loan scheme developed in collaboration with the CBN to provide access to long-term and low-interest financing for entrepreneurs in the creative industry, including Fashion, Music, Movies, and Information Technology.

The CBN governor said the Bankers’ Committee would equally be funding a prototype cluster located to the north of the National Arts Theatre, labelled the “Signature Cluster” consisting of a building each for music, film, fashion and Information Technology verticals.

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the project was an opportunity to write Nigeria’s name in gold for the future generation. “The project showed that when private and public enterprises partner, there is nothing that cannot be achieved,” he said.

Emefiele on his part said the project will be completed in 15 months, with 35,000 and is expected to create 35,000 jobs.

Based on the design, a Signature Cluster will consist of a building each for Music, Film, Fashion and Information Technology verticals as a Welcome/Visitor’s Centre, Police and Fire Stations, and structured parking for up to 500 vehicles would be built.

It will boost the creative and IT sectors in the areas of job creation, capacity building and foreign exchange (FX) revenue generation.

It would provide space, support network, business development and community engagement for the creative, cultural and technology sectors. These sectors contribute a lot to the Gross National Product.


The rationale

The Creative Industries Financing Initiative’s (CIFI) goal is to support startups and existing businesses across four pillars as well as foster the development of a Nigeria Creative Industries Centre in major cities in Nigeria.

Towards the realisation of this objective, the Bankers Committee set up about N25 billion of initial funding.

The first phase of the project requires the restoration of key component parts of the edifice built in 1976 to ensure that the functionality of this iconic building is reinstated.

Herbet Wigwe, the Managing Director (MD) of Access Bank clarified the rationale during a virtual briefing after the Bankers committee meeting on Thursday last week.

The Access Bank boss explained, “We couldn’t find a better place but to use the National Theatre and I will tell you why the National Theatre.

“First of all, the National theatre just by its configuration is a place to support creative arts. It is not just Nigeria’s pride, it is Africa’s pride as we all recall. But unfortunately, overtime we could not find a decent place that could host a significant number of people if they are coming to an international convention.”

He said the contracts for the second module to the National Theater, which are the sections that have to do with music, fashion and IT will be awarded sometime in September.

According to him, local contractors will be given special consideration during the contract awards.

“The question that came in is whether we are going to give support to local contractors and the answer is a big yes. There is priority to local contractors. The only place where we have to seek other contractors is if there are very specialist skills required,” Wigwe added.

Wigwe also observed that the project was in line with the Federal Government’s vision of lifting 100 million people out of poverty, adding that the creative village would provide employment for at least a million Nigerians, who have skills in music, IT, movies, among others.

For Stanbic IBTC Bank MD, Wole Adeniyi, the National Theatre would restore Nigeria’s past glory in the continent and boost the economy.

He noted that on completion, the Theatre would boost foreign exchange revenues in the country.

Adeniyi said, “This is also something we discussed and it was fully supported and it is something that will bring back the glory days. The National Theatre used to be a melting point of creativity and melting down of opportunities for the youths.

“We also believe that it will help the youths to actually fulfil their dreams. It will give wings to their dreams whether it is in IT, whether they are in music, whether they are in fashion, the hubs that are going to be created will help them express and unleash themselves.”

In addition to that, Adeniyi said rather than people actually traveling out of Nigeria, people will be coming into Nigeria and some of the foreign exchange Nigeria is looking for will actually be attracted through foreign inflows as it becomes a tourist destination.

Oluwatomi Somefun the MD of Unity Bank said the restoration of the National Theater and the construction of facilities around it for the creative industry is a remarkable innovation by the Bankers’ Committee.

“There is no doubt about it that when this is completed, it will be a big boost to the economy, especially the economy of the host state which is Lagos State in terms of the fact that it will create lots of jobs especially for the youths. It will boost tourism,’” she said.

Across Africa and in various parts of the globe, the Nigerian creative industry is well respected.

The restored National Theatre will serve as the focus of a new creative and entertainment centre.

An economist and Managing Director, Rockview Services Limited, Michael Stevens, explained that given Nigeria’s dependence on crude oil as a major source of government revenue, as well as for its forex earnings, the challenges created by COVID-19 have served to reinforce the need for stakeholders to promote policies and programmes that will enable greater diversification of the Nigerian economy.

Stevens said a diversified economy that supports increased productivity in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors while harnessing the talents of the youths in the creative industries will lead to the buildup of a more resilient economy that is better able to withstand external shocks, while creating wealth and jobs for the growing population.


Revenue potential

Emefiele said that with Nigeria’s human capital resources and an enabling environment that will help harness the creative talents of Nigeria’s youths, Nigeria has the potential to earn over $20 billion annually from the creative industry.

With the growing demand for Nigerian music, movies and fashion, across Africa and in various parts of the globe, the creative industries are spurring innovation, creating jobs, and helping to shape perceptions of Nigeria, as a nation with a strong spirit of creativity and ingenuity.

“We must do more to encourage the innovative works of these young talented Nigerians as they can make significant contributions to the growth and development of our country,” he said.

Second, given Nigeria’s growing population of over 200 million people, out of which 60 per cent are under the age of 35, it is imperative that the country strives to create opportunities that will keep its youths engaged, as it would portend great dangers for the progress of the nation if these youthful talents go to waste.

Furthermore, individuals will have the opportunity to showcase their work at the creative industries centre, which will expose them to domestic and external investors that can provide them with additional resources, which would enable production and expansion of their creative works. The supporting facilities such as retail outlets, hotels, entertainment centres, and an international conference centre will also help to reposition the centre as a viable location for high level international meetings and conventions


Addressing unemployment

According to the reports by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s youth population eligible to work is about 40 million.

Out of this, only 14.7 million are fully employed while the other 11.2 million are unemployed. This has been a concern for authorities as there have been various suggestions on what needs to be done to reverse this trend. But these can be harnessed for productive purposes.

According to the CBN, the initiative, was aimed at enabling businesses to obtain loans up to the tune of N500 million.

The CBN has granted loans under the creative industry financing initiative, which is primarily for the youth. Almost close to about N3.5 billion has been disbursed.


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