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CBN urged to closely monitor CIFI, select industry representatives to avoid creative ‘contractors’

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The Nollywood School by Ike Ude

As part of efforts to boost job creation, particularly among youths, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, recently introduced the Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI). It is believed that CIFI will employ about 300,000 youths over the next five years and lead to the accumulation of foreign exchange.

Only on Thursday, the Bankers Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria said it was set to commence the disbursement of funds under the financing initiative.

The decision to commence the disbursement of funds under the initiative was made at the end of the committee’s meeting held at the CBN headquarters in Abuja.

Present at the meeting were chief executives of all the Deposit Money Banks in Nigeria as well as other top officials of the apex bank.

Many have said the new initiative is an indication of government’s commitment to tackling menace of unemployment in the country.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 23.10 per cent in the third quarter of 2018 from 22.70 per cent in the second quarter of 2018. The rate averaged 12.31 per cent from 2006 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 23.10 per cent in the third quarter of 2018 and a record low of 5.10 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Recall that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, hinging on government’s diversification policy, has seized various fora to persuade Nigerians on the need to jettison the oil sector and embrace agriculture or the creative industry owing to their capacity for massive job creation.

Culture is both an enabler and driver of sustainable development. Cultural and creative industries (CCIs) generate yearly revenues of US$2.250 billion and global exports of over US$250 billion. Moreover, these sectors often make up around 10 per cent of national GDP and employ more people aged 15 and 29 than any other sector.

Under the initiative, beneficiaries could get up to N500 million loan at nine per cent interest rate. The creative industries that could apply include fashion, information technology, movie distribution, music and software engineering.

“Software engineering students can get a loan of up to N3m, N30m for movie production, N500m for movie distribution, cover your rental/service fees for fashion and Information Technology business, cover your training fees, equipment fees and rental/service fees for music business,” the apex bank stated in a statement.

Experts and industry players, who spoke on the initiative, scored CBN high in coming up with the scheme, saying the apex bank has come to its senses that no commercial bank is truly ready to give out loans at a single digit interest rate.

Again, what the new scheme means is that the CBN cannot really convince banks on the multiplier effects of giving single interest rate loans to SMEs and start-ups.

They note that banks in Nigeria are not doing what they should be doing, which is business facilitation rather they are competing amongst themselves on who posts the highest profit after tax in every quarter.

With this financial intervention, they said, more schools and facilities for editing and post-production skills in the area of movie making will be established to expand and improve opportunities for development and expansion.

But experts in the creative industry say, as laudable as this idea may appear, there are challenges that should not be glossed over before it becomes fully operational.

First of it is piracy.

They say that in Nigeria, creatives spend a lot of time, money and effort to produce intellectual works, but sadly, within a few hours, and with relatively cheap electronic equipment, the pirate, working from the comfort of their homes, make thousands of copies of such painstaking works. These unscrupulous characters, thereafter, sell the pirated works for a fraction of the price pegged for the created job.

Many also wonder how the apex bank came up with its criteria for the selection of those to benefit in the scheme.

They ask how come software engineering loan is expected to be paid back in three years while fashion; music, movie production and distribution expected pay back time is a maximum of 10 years?

They also want to know why the CBN and Bankers’ Committee mentioned IT, are they referring to mobile app developers, hardware, infrastructure deployment, data analysts, software testers or government contractors who specialise in delivering IT projects?

Without this clarification, this policy further drives the narrative that the entertainment industry should be where all Nigerian youths should turn to.

They also frown at the manner at which government is in a hurry to recover the student loan and not under pressure to do it for movie production and distribution?

However, they commended the initiative, saying it is a welcome development, provided it is done transparently.

In spite of this, however, they endorsed the intervention by the CBN and Bankers committee, saying it has capacity to create hundreds of thousands of jobs across such skill areas as, set design, make-up and management, directing and much more.

According to Dr. Sola Balogun of the Department of Theatre Arts, Federal University Oye Ekiti (FUOYE), “the CIFI initiative by Central Bank is a welcome development as it is expected to boost creativity and provide job opportunities in the arts, culture and tourism/hospitality sectors.”

He, however, said, “I think for it to benefit artistes and others in the creative sector, CBN should select representatives of key stakeholders who will ensure that no sub sector is unduly marginalised. The representatives should also work with the CBN in assessing proposed projects and their viability before qualifying to become beneficiaries.”

On whether it can replace National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), he said, “yes and no. Yes if the purpose is not merely to give loans to friends, politicians and business people whose vocations are not directly situated in the creative sector. No if the bank itself is looking for higher profits or interests on whatever it releases to successful applicants. So, in essence, Federal Government through CBN should see the initiative as a timely and enduring intervention that can rescue the creative sector and one that can transform the efforts of our artists, writers, filmmakers, dramatists, painters, actors, producers, fashion designers, tour operators, batik makers, musicians, particularly the up coming and promising ones, decorators etc into profitable and employment generating ventures.”

He added, “government should monitor the process of disbursement and utilisation of the CIFI benefits. If FG cannot implement NEA as proposed long ago under military regime as part of strategies to implement the Cultural Policy of Nigeria, then it can integrate the objectives of NEA into CIFI and make it serve the creative people in a well-structured democratic manner.”

The Director-General of the National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, has commended the Central Bank Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, for developing a Creative Industry Financing Initiative.

Runsewe, who gave this commendation in Abuja, said that the Initiative would allow Investors in the Creative Industry access loan up to N500 million with nine percent interest rate.

He noted that this initiative would greatly boost the industry and enhance the capacity of key players in the sector to optimize their potentials.

The NCAC boss added that more than 10 countries of the world have used similar initiative to fight poverty, unemployment, crime and youth restiveness.

“With this noble and patriotic initiative, the CBN Governor has clearly demonstrated his commitment to President Buhari’s economic development agenda with emphasis on diversification and job creation,” Runsewe said.

He stated that as one of the highest employers of labour, if the culture creative industry were fully developed, it would not only create mass employment, but also stimulate rapid socio-economic growth and development.

Runsewe called on key players in the industry to take advantage of the opportunity of the facility to develop and strengthen their businesses.

For Taiwo Phillips, a theatre practitioner based in Ibadan, “I believe that the CIFI will facilitate the birthing of many brilliant projects and ideas that have been held back for years, because of limited resources.”

Phillips said, “the initiative will help to improve content, as well as the technical quality of productions.”

He, however, argued that there is need for government to strengthen the enabling laws and punish pirates in a manner that will discourage its practice.”

Dr. ‘Diran Ademiju-Bepo, Associate Professor of Theatre and Film Studies, University of Jos, is angry that the government has not really shown seriousness in its dealing with the creative industry.

According to him, “while I was still with the Nigerian Film Corporation, under Mr. Afolabi Adesanya as MD, there was a National Committee set up to finalise the modalities for the National Film Fund, which was started by the pioneer General Manager of NFC, Mr. Brendan Shehu, in the mid-90s. Others were the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) National Film Village and National Film Policy etc committees. The reports of the committees were submitted to the Federal Government in 2006 or so. The administration of Goodluck Jonathan also did abracadabra and said there was some fund set aside for the Entertainment industry, canvassed by I think, Ben Bruce or so, on the back of NFC’s initiative. Where is the $250 million?”

He is not convinced that the scheme would last for long time. He said, “as soon as the All Progressive Congress (APC) came into office, some hangers-on advised it to embark on shenanigan trips around some of those Reports. It reviewed the MOPICON stuff but it was only job for the boys and girls in Nollywood! Ask Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Madu Chikwendu, Femi Odugbemi, Jide Kosoko, Oga Bello, Sani Muazu, Abdulkareem Mohammed, and a few Alaba/Upper Iweka filmmakers or marketers, etc. This fund is for ‘creative contractors and political jobbers’, as you rightly said.”

He continued, “if you get the policy environment right, the industry will be better for all stakeholders. But political promises without structure will never work. As long as the industry remains fragmented, no intervention from government will have any meaningful impact on it except to enrich a few. This initiative cannot take the place of a National Film Fund, which policy report was ready more than 12 years ago! It is also not the same as the National Endowment Fund for the Arts, a General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) initiative since 1990, which must have inspired Brendan Shehu to start canvassing for a separate Fund for the film industry.”

The academic, however, said, “look at Britain, America, India, Canada, Germany, may be even Ghana. Are we cursed, never to get anything right? These countries support their creative industries and derive massive dividends! We must do same. Even, there should be funding for educational films from universities! We are teaching film in the classroom and there are brilliant ideas from our students. But the funds are not there to support them.”

All said, the fund would provide a desired fillip for an ailing sector as the culture, creative industry.


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