Unlocking potential of culture, creativity for sustainable development
On March 21, 2011 over 450 members of the creative community gathered at the banquet hall of the Eko Hotel & Suites in Lagos. It was an event, which many, who attended, would not forget in a hurry. It was a meeting initiated by the former President Goodluck Jonathan with the objective of lifting the Culture and Creative Industries (CCI).
A few months earlier, he had launched the Bring Back the Book initiative, at which the potential of the creative sector was equally spotlighted.So great was the enthusiasm of the creative entrepreneurs, culture workers and missioners this period that many believed before long, the country’s culture policy would be reviewed and implemented in full.
At the Presidential parley, virtually all the disciplines in the art, through their professional bodies, spoke on the challenges militating against their professional and career fulfillment.
In a summation of the various presentations, Culture Communicator and Advocate, Ben Tomoloju, speaking on the platform of the Coalition of Nigerian artists, CONA (which coordinated invitation of majority of the participants) urged the your presidency to beat the records of past administrations and leaders by:
• fast-tracking the realisation of the National Endowment Fund for the Arts; and facilitating introduction of Tax Rebates as incentives for sponsors of the arts
• ensuring the formal launch and operation of the Nigeria Cultural Policy;
• giving prime place to the cultural sector in budgeting processes since it has capacity to create massive job opportunities;
• establishing infrastructure and relevant facilities to back up the mobility and diversity of the creative industry;
• ensuring a proactive enforcement of the copyright law so as to make the creative industry lucrative;
• giving artists deserved visibility in matters concerning their trades in government appointments; and
• engaging the country’s vast human resources in literature, movies, music, theatre, TV programme, visual arts, etc as tools for building Nigeria’s image abroad.
• creating a Book Commission to take charge of all state matters dealing with issues of Books, Reading and Writing
• setting up machinery for effective monitoring of all cultural agencies to ensure that they are well managed and performing to the best interest of the artistes and creative industry practitioners.
Four years after the parley, nothing again happened to the sector that would elicit enthusiasm.When the government of President Muhammadu Buhari came in, another opportunity to gather the CCIs came with a national summit on culture and tourism. Themed: ‘Repositioning Culture and Tourism in A Diversified Economy’, the summit held from April 27 to 29, 2016 in Abuja.
At the end of deliberations, the following recommendations, among others, were considered and adopted:
• The Summit observed that to create a positive image for the country’s national buildings, private cooperate offices and edifices, there is a compulsory need to adorn them with Nigerian artworks in order to empower arts creators; and that measures be put in place to protect the nation’s cultural sites during times of conflict by engendering communal ownership of such sites;
• stakeholders also harped on the need to imbibe the culture of documentation so as to increase availability of statistical data on the sector to aid planning. The availability of empirical data enhances funding opportunities;
• government should engage stakeholders in conducting the nationwide Mapping of creative industries whose pilot was conducted by the British Council, NBS and SONTA in 2013. This is imperative because verifiable statistics on the performance of the sector will demonstrate clearly the viability of the industry and attract more investors;
• the MOPICON and Theatre Arts Regulatory Council bills need to be harmonised into one bill which government could present to the national assembly for timely processing. We need to urgently regulate the sector and maintain high ethical standards;
• more stringent legislation need to be in place to protect national monuments from the growing cases of willful destruction across the country. A law should be promulgated to compel Local Government Councils to establish and maintain community museums and craft centers and fund at least one community festival in a year;
• museums and indigenous languages/cultural/crafts centres should be made part of requirements for building schools across the country in order to orientate the younger generations on the country’s history and cultural values as part of their education;
• in order to maximize the gains of digitization of broadcasting in Nigeria, proper framework needs to be worked out between players in the creative sector and broadcast organisations produce adequate culturally relevant content; and
• that action on the reviewed Cultural Policy for Nigeria and the Endowment Fund for the Arts has been unnecessarily delayed. Action must therefore be taken to establish and make them functional for effective development of the sector.
However, worrisome is that, years after, there has not been the required review or full implementation of policy. It still remains bogged down by wasteful bureaucracy both at political and technocratic level.Nigeria is one of the African countries that took a cue from Ghana to formulate its national cultural policy at the insistence of the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Since 1988, when Nigerian formulated its cultural policy till date, gaping loopholes exist, which hinder the promotion of culture as documented in the policy.
The policy highlights four broad categories of state action namely:
• Preservation of culture;
• promotion of culture;
• presentation of culture; and
• establishment of administrative structure and the provision of fund for its implementation.
The promotion of cultural property whether of concrete or non-concrete nature, past or present, written or oral, or relating to values or facts of history with the aid of research and documentation.Promotion of culture entails providing avenues to ensure cultural education, consciousness and development vis a vis encouraging the integration of traditional values in the day-to-day life of the people. Presentation of culture as stipulated in the policy refers to:
The means by which culture is disseminated in its bid to facilitate the accessibility of arts and culture to the widest spectrum of Nigeria eg. through theatre, films, exhibitions, seminars, workshops and publication or the mass media.Establishing administrative structures and institutions for promoting the objectives of the cultural policy, providing the framework to enable these administrative structures and institutions to generate funds as well as to ensure generation of fund through private sources.
The Director, Entertainment and Creative Services, Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Augustus Ajibola, said it would be wrong to conclude, “we have not been reviewing the policy. We have been doing so from time-to-time.” Ajibola said everything about a reviewed culture policy is ready, “it is just for it to be taken to the Federal Executive Council for deliberation and ratification.”He said part of the review is the concession from Federal Inland Revenue for cultural products to be given pioneer status last year. “This will not only have a multiplier effect on the creative industries but also create new employment opportunities for entrepreneurs,” he said.The implication of this status is that any direct foreign investment or inflows that is up to N100 million attracts an immediate tax rebate and holiday of three years.
Pioneer status is a fiscal incentive provided under the Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Act, Cap I7, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 (IDA). Eligible companies operating in designated pioneer industries and or producing pioneer products, which apply for and are granted pioneer status, are entitled to income tax holiday for up to five years – three years in the first instance, renewable for an additional maximum period of two years.
In addition to income tax holiday, pioneer companies enjoy other benefits, such as the exemption of dividends paid out of pioneer profits from withholding tax.But Tomoloju feels “the implementation of the policy falls short of expectation even in the issues addressed therein. Just a few aspects of the policy were selected and backed by enabling decrees during the military era as observed by the late Dr. Jide Malomo. These include the establishment of a Copyright Council (now a Commission), the National Troupe and National Theatre Management, National Gallery of Art by the special effort of Elder Frank Aig-Imoukhuede and his staff at the NCAC and the Ogbanje afflicted Culture Ministry.”He continued, “there is no holistic legislation on the policy, so it is incapacitated in terms of going the whole hog in influencing national development on a sustainable basis across time and space.”
Tomolouju said, “there are certain bucks that may be passed in terms of the delay in reviewing our cultural policy and there is a sense in which we are all accountable. Basically, government is expected to provide leadership in the formulation and even the implementation of national policies in all spheres of human endeavour by galvanising all available resources, human or otherwise. I believe that, on one hand, the non-review of the cultural policy for Nigeria within the last 30 years is the consequence of the failure in leadership at the level of government.”
For the culture advocate, there is need to fast-track the realisation of the National Endowment Fund for the Arts;“I can say for certain that some stakeholders – however few are quite set to form a partnership with government to actualise the letters and spirit of the Cultural Policy for Nigeria if all arms of government are alive to their responsibilities. For instance, when I led the process of establishing the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners in 1989 and put the pioneer executive in place, the first advocacy they embarked upon was to ensure that a legal instrument was enacted to back up the implementation of the National Endowment for the Arts.”
Led by the pioneer president, Mahmood Alli-Balogun, the Secretary, Segun Ojewuyi (now a professor in the US) and Israel Eboh, the current president, members of the association raised money among themselves. They came over to The Guardian to place a full-page advert canvassing for a legislation to back up the NEA. “If the artistes did not believe that the policy could help in furthering the realisation of the National Endowment for the Arts, would they go as far as taxing themselves to achieve same? I mean, that was a procedural matter that government and its agencies could sort out without making artistes to draw from their lean purse. On the part of NANTAP it was the demonstration of a high level of commitment. The unfortunate thing, however, was that the effort was wasted. The political class ignored it and, pretty soon, the June 12, 1993 miasma enveloped the polity. We are still chewing the cud of the neglect of the cultural policy today,” he said.
Actually, there was an attempt at reviewing the policy in 2008, 20 years after it was formulated. But the exercise came rather late. According to UNESCO guidelines, a cultural policy shall be reviewed at least once in eight years. So, it was more than twice a belated exercise. Also, due to the restricted circulation of the text, it wasn’t addressed to the Nigerian people as sovereign owners. This contrasted sharply with the case in 1988 when culture administrators mobilised members of the ivory tower, journalists, trade unionists, civil society representatives, among others, to make their input to the implementation strategies.
This happened at the old Durbar Hotel, Lagos when Colonel Tunde Akogun was the Federal Sole-Administrator for Culture with renowned culture icons like the then Director of the National Council for Arts and Culture, Mr. Frank Aig-Imoukhuede, Professor Bashir, Odia Ofeimun, G. G. Darah and others as leaders of thought. The late President-General of the Nigerian Market Women’s Association, Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji and her followers participated actively. The scope of participation underscored the popularity and popular acceptance of the document. But the belated 2008 exercise wasn’t like that. It was handled rather perfunctorily, without any serious demonstration of commitment. This is an example of how the legislature has failed woefully in cultural matters.
Tomoloju also blamed culture practitioners and stakeholders in the sector for the non-review of the cultural policy. “We seem not to be insistent and activistic enough. Majority of culture producers prefers the fair-weather, opportunistic approach to the fortunes of the industry, rather than a dynamic system of collective bargaining,” he said.Many have reasoned that given the watertight content of the policy, it should stimulate the minds of the people intellectually and enable them to appreciate and imbibe ennobling values as enunciated in the constitution.
Stakeholders and experts in the sector insist that there are national action plans and policies to meet almost every need like energy, as well as address problems faced in the education and infrastructure sectors, but the key area of culture, which requires preparing people for bigger cerebral challenges, has been left to makeshift arrangements.
The country’s Constitution mandates the preservation of a distinct culture and practices, which imply accepting plurality in its cultural discourse. At a creative level, this finds expression in literature, art, music and crafts.It is disheartening, therefore, to note that the state has been lackadaisical in the provision of official platform for the promotion and gainful utilisation of the culture policy.
There is need to understand and tap the potential offered by the creative industry. Currently, there appears to be a disconnect between the” luminaries of arts, protagonists and decision-makers and resource allocators,” as Tomoloju puts it..Earlier in the year, stakeholders in arts and culture tasked the federal government on implementation of strategic policies and programmes that could lift the culture sector.
This position was one of the resolutions reached at the end of a two-day Annual Roundtable on Cultural Orientation (ARTCO) organized by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO). The event held between March 8 and 9in Benin, Edo State Capital.At the roundtable, government was charged to encourage the recreation of traditional festivals. This will not only enhance the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but will also boost tourism and make festivals relevant to the contemporary society.
The creative industry is one of the highest employers of labour in the country. Yet this has never been proportionately reflected in the country’s fiscal allocation.
Culture, the centrepiece of creative references has rather been treated perfunctorily at the formal sectoral planning process, leaving the teeming millions of culture-producers in the spasmodic grip of a subsistence-trap.In consequence, the average artist — with the clear exception of a very few thoroughbreds — is so impoverished that he cannot resist the exploitative incursions of mercantilist hawks who swoop on his output, enrich themselves with it and pay only miserable royalties to him to simply survive.
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% of national GDP and employ more people aged 15−29 than any other sector.Culture has also the potential to enable key development goals. The 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda mentions culture explicitly with relation to education, economic growth, sustainable cities, and consumption and production patterns. Deploying cultural resources can also help reduce inequalities within and among countries as well as achieve gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.
Already, Ethiopia has increasingly integrated culture into its national sustainable development plans, notably through the second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II: 2015-2020). The country’s CCIs are expected to contribute to not only economic growth and job creation, but also social cohesion nationally and image building internationally.
Following the launch of UNESCO’s 2018 Global Report: Re|Shaping Cultural Policies, UNESCO is using the lessons learned and recommendations of the report to support the efforts of national authorities to review their culture policy and strengthen their capacities to effectively implement the UNESCO 2005 Convention.South South Sudan is equally following the path of Ethiopia by its incorporation of culture in the development frameworks, which experts say will help the country to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and ensure human rights and fundamental freedom of expression, information and communication, promote gender equality to leverage women’s contributions towards creative economy.
“UNESCO is confident that the participatory process of culture policy review provides an opportunity for South Sudanese to have a say on what policies and measures they want to support the richness of the diverse cultural expressions of the people of South Sudan,” said Mr. Sardar Umar Alam, Head of the UNESCO Office in Juba.To increase European Union collaboration on culture and citizens’ participation in cultural activities, the European Commission (EC) adopted on May 22, 2018 a proposal for a New European Agenda for Culture, accompanied by a Staff working document.
The Agenda explains how the EC will support EU member states in tapping into culture’s potential to foster innovation, creativity, sustainable growth and jobs.The Agenda has three strategic objectives, focusing on social, economic and external dimensions.The social dimension is about using the power of culture and cultural diversity for social cohesion. Among other objectives, the document emphasises the need to protect and promote Europe’s cultural heritage as a shared resource.
Under the economic dimension the New Agenda supports jobs and growth in the cultural and creative sectors, by promoting arts and culture in education.The Agenda also calls for boosting relevant skills such as digital, entrepreneurial, traditional and specialised, and encouraging innovation in culture. The external dimension focuses on strengthening international cultural relations, as well as reinforcing cooperation on cultural heritage.