Is i-DICE Uhuru for digital content creators?
Recently, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo launched the Investment in Digital Creative Enterprises (i-DICE) programme; a $600 million intervention fund to support young Nigerians operating within the digital and creative enterprise ecosystem. The intervention is targeted at addressing constraints faced by young creatives, such as access to capital, provision of infrastructure and delivery of specialized training amongst others. While this initiative can be considered a welcome development, there may be a need to interrogate it a bit further; especially in the light of past futile attempts. Is this the much-awaited intervention for the digital content and creative enterprise sub-sector or should we expect another? Can Mr. Macaroni, Taaooma and their colleagues now heave a sigh of relief?
In January 2021, Africa Polling Institute published a study report titled: Skit Economy: An Assessment of Digital Content Creators in Nigeria. I had the privilege of serving as principal investigator on the study, which sought to examine the rising trend of digital content creators in the country, particularly the art of skit-making; as an avenue for unleashing the deluge of talents and creative energy of the bulging youth demography. It also explored its potentials to generate wealth, create jobs and stimulate economic growth; while examining the challenges faced by creatives. Adopting a mixed methods approach, we gathered quantitative and qualitative data, and interviewed leading digital content creators and skit-makers like Samuel Perry, Debo Adedayo, Maryam Akpaokagi, Kunle Idowu and Nosa Afolabi, professionally known as Broda Shaggi, Mr. Macaroni, Taaooma, Frank Donga and Lasisi Elenu respectively.
Believe it or not, Nigerians have a great appetite for digital content. Our study found that two-thirds of citizens watch comedy skits frequently. More like an elixir or stress-relief-capsules, these skits help to unwind from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Interestingly, while consumers mostly watch these skits on social media – Facebook (58%), Instagram (34%), YouTube (18%) and others; some content creators have evolved from producing sketches merely for amusement and entertainment, to purposeful tools for disseminating information, creating public awareness, marketing commercial brands and advocating for social change. In this regard, Broda Shaggi (35%), Mark Angel (26%), Mr. Macaroni (15%), Taaooma (12%) and Lasisi Elenu (11%) were ranked as the top five skit-makers by viewers choice.
Make no mistake, these folks are cashing out big time. They are milking money from skits uploaded on social media, movie production deals and brand endorsements, while enjoying celebrity status. In a recent media interview, Broda Shaggi who rakes in over $40,000 monthly from YouTube views alone, admitted that skit-making is extremely lucrative, especially for those who plan to stick around for the long haul. They are also creating sustainable jobs for their mates. For example, at the time of our study, Woli Agba employed 30 people, Josh2funny had an eight-man team, while Taaooma worked with her fiancé, Abdulazeez Greene, and six others. All these were achieved with little to no support whatsoever from the government, but not without its challenges. As our study revealed, challenges faced by digital content creators include: limited access to finance, poor electricity supply, slow internet bandwidth, limited training facilities to deliver specialized trainings, excessive taxation on social media platforms, and concerns over stringent social media regulation. These highlight the critical need for government intervention towards the sector.
Nonetheless, as our study predicted, the last two years have witnessed exponential growth in the number of digital contents and creators, moving thousands of youths out of the unemployment bracket in the process. Hardly would you find any major news report or trendy story these days that would not be depicted in multiple skits. More so, digital content creators are becoming more daring with the kinds of content they put out. We have also witnessed skit-makers like Sabinus, Brain Jotter, SydneyTalker, Nas Boi, KieKie, Zicsaloma, Ashmusy and Romeo_WJ hit the limelight, generate mind-boggling wealth and gain significant fame as social media influencers. As we say in the local parlance, dem don blow! Furthermore, there’s been increased collaboration amongst content creators in a bid to drive viewership and piggy-bag off each other’s followership. We now watch comedy skits being aired as regular television content, and popular skit-makers featuring on movie productions. Some have even developed the nerves to shoot their own feature films, targeting platforms like Netflix, Amazon, ROK and DSTV.
To be sure, Nigeria’s service sector currently contributes over 43% to the GDP, with PwC projecting that the country’s media and entertainment sector could grow its revenues to almost $15 billion by 2025. This portends growth for the digital and creative enterprises sub-sector, and highlights the auspicious timing of the i-DICE intervention.
In conclusion, it’s fair to say that Nigeria has never been in short supply of policies, programmes or interventions aimed at addressing specific sectoral challenges, constraints and bottlenecks. Besides, this isn’t the first initiative targeted at boosting the country’s burgeoning creative industry. I recall in 2012, under President Goodluck Jonathan, the government introduced a $200 million intervention fund for the creative sector, and the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2019 committed N22 Billion under the Creative Industry Finance Initiative. However, the missing link has always been with the implementation of such initiatives. That is really where the rubber meets the road. Rounding off our study, I asked one digital content creator if he had ever benefited from past interventions targeted at the creative sector, especially those initiated under the current administration. His response echoes the sentiments shared by many of his colleagues: “The entertainment industry funds as claimed by the government is nothing but political statements. Government claims to be releasing money for the creative industry, but it does not get to the hands of the creative artistes themselves.” Perhaps, before we shout Uhuru over i-DICE, there may be a need to inquire how the government, in partnership with the African Development Bank, intends to implement it.
Ihua, is a Professor of Practice in Opinion Research at Coal City University, Enugu, and Executive Director at Africa Polling Institute. He can be reached on Twitter @Bellemskey or via email: email@example.com