Art, culture, creative space will enhance economic diversification – Musa-Musawa

Hannatu Musa-Musawa, a lawyer, is the Minister of Art, Culture and Creative Economy. In this interview with GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR, she explains the eight-point agenda of her ministry and how she hopes to achieve the outcomes set out by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.A lot! I think one of those things that shows that President Bola Tinubu is an innovator is the fact that he really was committed to diversifying from our normal means of revenue, which is oil. In that diversification, he created this amazing ministry – art, culture, and the creative economy – the first of its kind in Nigeria. When I got this job, I decided to approach it from a ground zero point of view because I really felt that not much had been done in the space to create a fortifying sort of industry-specific structure. The basic things that are needed to put a foundation were not there, so, we approached it from a ground zero perspective. In doing that, I came up with an eight-point agenda. That eight-point agenda hammers on making Nigeria a global creativity hub and engaging in skill acquisition for members of the industry and capacity building so that they will be able to be better positioned for job creation.Policy framework is central when you talk about building a foundation. We decided to look at all the policies that are needed. The issue of culture policy, creative economy policy, and infrastructure policy. These were some things that we felt were very important. Of course, there is the issue of stakeholder engagement. Stakeholder engagement: One of the greatest things about this industry is the fact that members and players have allowed the industry to grow organically and become successful in spite of the government. Now that the government has come into place, these are the people who operate within the space. They know what needs to be done. Then, you also look at the strategic partnerships that are necessary – the PPPs. When you look at what needs to be done in this industry, the government can not do it alone. I think for the purpose of sustainability, the government should not do it alone. The issue of strategic partnerships is very key. One of the things that we looked at in terms of the potential of the industry was its ability to create an economic expansion. We came up with a very ambitious goal of trying to contribute at least $100 billion to increase the GDP by 2030 or 2031. It’s the potential to bring in economic growth.Yes, it is achievable, but I’ll get to that later.Yes, we are talking about creating hubs, and already, we have started. We are partnering with one of the greatest members of this industry, a young man, Mr Bayo, who created Mad House in Lagos. We are working together with him to see how we can expand those incubators and those hubs in the different festivals apart from the ones that he has already done in Lagos, which we have already keyed into. He has already started here in Abuja, it is almost finished, and the Federal Government is going to come in to partner with him on that. We are trying to see how we can put it in the six different geo-political zones first, and then we will expand that to the different states, hopefully. By the end of the administration, we will have been able to expand those incubators to every single senatorial district so that we are able to take this ability to have the skill acquisition to the grassroots within communities. Hopefully, we will be able to do that, and it is going to be based on the successes that we will have with the first six geopolitical zones. With this skill acquisition, the ministry has launched what we call CLAP – Creatively Acceleration Programme, which is a digital platform that is a convergence point for creatives. Creatives can come onto this platform and be able to partner them with areas where they are able to gain the specific skill that they need and the specific tours that are required for them to be able to build on the capacity.When it comes to job creation, which is one of the things that we have committed to as a ministry, specifically for the younger demographics with CLAP, we will be able to get them jobs whether in Nigeria or across the world. It is a tool that we have already launched within the ministry, we are working to flesh that out as well, and hopefully we will take it to the executive council.Thank you. Cultural policy is important. In my ministry, we are working with a document, I think there already exists a 2020 document on cultural policy. We are cleaning that up, and I think that within the next couple of weeks, maybe three weeks at the most, we will be able to present cultural policy to the nation. We are also working with NESG. We have already signed a memorandum of understanding with NESG to work on ensuring that we present a policy that would be able to give the kind of protection and security and support that members of the industry really require.You preempted me on that. Part of the policy framework that we want to put in place is an incentive policy. Incentive policy is very important for people in the industry, and we have already started working on that. It is just a matter of cleaning that up and presenting it to the public. The incentive policy also looks at how we can give incentives to people and rebates, tax rebates within the industry. International people who work with them in the industry will be able to come and work in Nigeria having that friendly working environment to be able to do so. I have already started talking to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr Bunmi Ojo. We are introducing a visa scheme for the creatives, specifically created for the creatives. That is almost at the final stages of the presentation. That is part of the incentives that we are looking at – ways we can encourage people to come into the country, bring their equipment into the country, and have some sort of rebate in relation to that. That is what we have done in terms of incentives and policy implementation.As a government, we can not be able to put a structure together if you are looking at the sustainability of it. So, we are looking at PPP partnerships. We have discussed with a number of banking institutions, people who have interest and foundations where we can get grants for people within the industry. Very soon, we will be able to announce that we have been able to gain grants from these endowment funds. This is very key. It sounds ambitious, but it really isn’t when you look at the kind of value that is created within the industry. It is just a matter of closing the lacunas and trying to bring that value back home. The numbers are there already. It is just about creating an enabling environment that would allow us to get this value economically. One of the great things that we have started and I am taking it to the executive council is an arena. We do not have one arena in Nigeria. Recently, we had a great Nigerian, Mr Amusan, who is building an arena in Lagos. We should have arenas all over Nigeria. Already in the ministry, we have started discussions as to how we can do one huge arena in the centre of Abuja and then we hope to have what we call the Abuja Creative City, which will be a one stop shop for everything creative. There, you will have your film studios, arena, and music studio.Infrastructure is key. We need to upgrade our museums. As the capital city of Abuja, we don’t have a museum. That is a shame. So, we have to upgrade the existing museums in at least the six geo-political zones so that we will be able to bring back some of our artefacts. Infrastructure, cinemas. We are bringing back cinemas, cinemas in all the states and, hopefully, local governments if it is possible. That is already a discussion, and we are almost done with that. Heritage preservation is key. This cultural expansion we are talking about is also about the preservation of our culture, and this can be done through the cinemas, the return of our artifacts and the loan of some of our major artefacts.One of the main challenges that we faced and which we still face in stakeholder engagements is that the industry has really grown lethargic with the promises of governments. In the past, the government had done nothing to help them. This is the first time a president has found it fit to create a ministry to cater specifically to the industry. The fact that you look at IP policy which isn’t in place because there has not been a ministry that looked at the peculiar nature that is required, and the peculiar requirements needed to be put in place. In the beginning, what I faced was that industry players felt the government was on the other side and members of the industry were over here. There was no trust. It is still going to take a lot for us to bring that trust and the only way we can do it is by giving them the legal regulatory framework that they need, the grants, the capacity building and endowments that they need as well as giving them the infrastructure that they need. Once you do that, you will be able to bring that trust back. Other than that, I have found a lot of magnanimity with the main players in the industry. They have welcomed me. Many of them don’t need us. They have succeeded on their own, but because they care about the industry, they are looking at long-term sustainability.It is doable. The numbers that we have are based on the metrics out there already. The kind of numbers coming in from Spotify, YouTube, and NETFLIX. You look at the number from the great Funke Akindele’s movie, which grossed a billion plus with hardly any major cinema. Can you imagine the numbers that can be generated if we are able to expand the cinemas? If you are able to give them IP securitisation, imagine the lacunas that you would be able to breach. If you do that and you are able to give them infrastructure, you are able to draw a lot of concerts coming into the country. Nigeria’s movie industry is the second biggest in the world, but they don’t have the infrastructure and the proper backing to be able to produce good productions. The productions that we are able to gross are billions that we are talking about in Bollywood and Hollywood. If you are able to give them that enabling environment those numbers are not very difficult if you look at what South Korea and Japan are doing. I am just looking at the movie industry, but we have the fashion industry, the music industry, and the culinary industry. Can you imagine the kind of money that we can make just by monetising our jollof or monetising our food? It is not very difficult. It is not something that can be done overnight, but we need to put in place an enabling environment that would be able to foster a certain amount of growth from 2027 to 2030.Legislation is going to play a key role. We have done a number of engagements as to how we can upgrade some of our laws. What I met was an industry and a ministry with very obsolete laws. With my background as a lawyer, I was shocked as to how outdated some of these laws were. It is shocking that there has been a ministry in the past and the laws were just left there. What the President has done by creating this ministry is one that we have no choice but to put on our magnifying glass where it needs to be put. Almost all the laws that govern this particular industry have got to be upgraded. Law reform is going to play a huge part. That is why I said it is only when the government comes in to liaise with members of the industry that you can really get this upsurge. Members of the industry are not going to be able to put legislation through as fast as the government would.We hope to create at least 2 million jobs by 2027. That is our hope, and I think with what we have done so far, we will be able to do that. Part of our own mandate is to engage a younger demography in almost everything that we do. This is almost all part of job creation, and I have all my agencies pursuing that goal. I have been very lucky because my agencies are now populated with members of the industry who know what needs to be done. The likes of Ali Nuhu, Obi Asika, Tola Akerele, Otunba Ajiboye, these are greats within the space, they know what needs to be done and are working overtime to ensure that they are able to achieve this economic expansion but also to create that enabling environment that people of their industry need. Job creation is very key to Mr. President, and he wants to cater specifically to that young demographic.Of course, being a member of a northern extraction that has grown up more with the southern community, I do understand those fault lines. What I know is the importance of taking these fault lines into consideration. And in whatever you do, you have to localise it. We intend to work directly with the state governments to ensure that we have a cultural village or cultural renaissance in every state. At the moment, we are coming up with a template for every single state, and we are going to send that to the state governors. Once we send that to the state governors asking them to ask their own commissioners from the relevant ministries to make input as to what they want to be specifically captured within their states. I hope to do a tour of every state. It is a tour we hope to do very soon within the next two months. We will take that template to every single state, and we would invite the state governments to work with us hand in hand to put up a cultural experience, whether a cultural village where they will have their museums. We will be working closely with the National Economic Council, NEC.

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