Having served as editor-in-chief for the African Journal of Business and Economic Researchfor five years between 2012 and 2017, I have been privileged to showcase insights from a non-academic audience starting from the first interview with Professor David Abdulaiof the Ghana-based African Graduate School of Management and Leadershipin January 2012. Between that year and 2021, other insights have included those expressed by not just African leaders should as Professor Okoe Amartey, Vice Chancellor of the University of Professional Studies Accra, but also celebrities such as Chidi Mokeme – a Nollywood actor, fashion entrepreneur, motivational speaker and TV Entertainment anchor.
Before going into the details, I think it is only fair to highlight what African Journal of Business and Economic Research (AJBER) stands for and what it does. As a flagship imprint of Adonis Abbey Publishers,AJBER is a blind refereed, high quality international journal that provides a forum for the publication of articles from academics, business practitioners, and policy makers. The journal aims to advance both theoretical and empirical research, inform policies and practices, and improve understanding of how economic and business decisions shape the lives of Africans.
Welcome the practitioners
For the purpose of this article, however, the focus is on three Executive Opinion interviews with Chidi Mokeme, Prince Nnamdi Adigwu and Professor Ribio Bunketi Nzeza – interviewed in that order – andtheir coalescing views on why the creative industries in Africa andArts and Humanities matter for the continent.
Chidi Mokemehas always been and still remains a science student at heart. After secondary school, he points out “I couldn’t get admission to study Pharmacy, which was my first choice ambition, from the limited number of choices made available to us by our parents in those days, so I settled for Computer Science at The Institute of Management and Technology, IMT, Enugu.” After that he completed hisHigher National Diploma at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos. It was while he was there that he“fell for the allure of the bright lights.” In addition to numerous movies under his belt including many that are now on Netflix, Chidi has also been a notable TV anchor havinghosted Seasons 1 & 2 of The Gulder Ultimate Search, which he described as Africa’s No. 1 Adventure series, as well as being Brand Ambassador for Vodacom (a telecom behemoth) and Victor Baron (the Turkish designer).
Prince Nnamdi Adigwu is a Producer, Global Entertainment & Media Consultant with a focus on Music, International Film/TV Development and Financing, Sales & Acquisitions, Distribution, Talent Curation, Brand Partnerships with years of experience and global business connections – also known as “The Business Plug”.
Professor Ribio Nzeza Bunketi Buseis Congolese national based in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital city. I am an Associate Professor of Communication both at the Catholic University of Congo and at the University of Kinshasa. He holds a PhD in Social communications from the Catholic University of Congo, a Master in Cultural industries management from the Senghor University of Alexandria in Egypt.He is also founding member of the Music in Africa Foundation in 2013 with the support of the Goethe-Institut and the SIEMENS Foundation. This non-profit Pan-African organization based in Johannesburg (South Africa) with its 5 regional offices across the continent, runs an authoritative online portal dedicated to the African music industry by promoting information exchange and networking. As he points out, “I am very interested in the music industry on which I have focused my doctoral thesis and where I also consult.”He has also conducted the preparation of the City of Kinshasa’s application to the UNESCO network of creative cities in the field of music. Kinshasa was granted the title of UNESCO city of music in December 2015.
The Creative Industries Sector Outlook
From the first interview with Chidi Mokeme on hisadvice to those aspiring to venture into the sector, one message stood out, “Don’t be deceived by the bright lights. The glamour, glitter, and razzmatazz of the Red Carpets are the reward for all the hard work and sleepless nights that go on behind the scenes. Armed with this knowledge, the sky is your steppingstone and impossible is nothing.”Mokeme also pointed out that Nollywood and the Nigerian entertainment industry in general, is the only privately driven and privately funded industry that, even though it is completely neglected by the government, continues to grow in leaps and bounds and making unprecedented global impact. The resultant effect is that in an economy like ours, where unemployment is at epidemic proportions, and graduates and PhD holders are applying for jobs as drivers, every youth that I come across sees the entertainment industry as their last hope. They all aspire to be actors, musicians, or comedians, as the only viable alternative to a life of crime –but not everyone can be in the spotlight. The entertainment industry requires a certain degree of talent and passion. So, all aspiring actors must first have a personal conviction that this is what they really want to do and not just as a means of survival. Success in the entertainment industry requires dedication, perseverance, discipline, and a burning desire fuelled by passion.
When the question on the need for film and music collaborations in Africa was posed, Prince Adigwu opined, “I have always advocated for this. I strongly believe that as Africans, we need to unite and explore possibilities of collaboration for mutual benefit. The Music Industry is doing well on that front but the Film Industry still has a long way to go with regard to intracontinental and intercontinental collaborations. International co-production is a phenomenal tool for achieving this, as it helps take local stories to a broader audience. Filmmakers can also benefit from alternative funding sources, as well as a wider market for their craft. However, we (Africans) need to create a structure that would nurture such international collaborations. Good examples are South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritius, which all have Filming incentives.”
More recently, Buse points out, “the main lesson from the DRC case study is that the lack of planning leads to failure.”He calls for the insertion of culture into national development plans. His position being that“having a cultural policy with an implementation plan, monitoring and evaluation […] I hope that shortly the Parliament will vote on cultural policy and other legal texts […] will be a contribution to efforts to unlocking the economic potential of Congolese culture.”Amidst the gloom, he looks up the AU 2021 Year of Arts, Culture, and Heritage as the perfect opportunity to sensitize all member states to enable their national creative economy by devising and implementing relevant cultural policy and action projects.
He also sees the AfCFTA would be very helpful in requiring a spot for cultural goods and services in the tariff offers that Regional economic communities are going to submit to the continental body. Then, cultural goods and services will be part of trade items between Africans. On the same level, the ACP-EU Cotonou Agreement ended in December 2020. A new one will replace. Cultural industries are part of the item considered in negotiations. Projects intended to structure and organize the cultural sector should be better funded than the others with no clear visibility about long-term outcomes and sustainability.
What Role for (higher) education?
On this broad topic, Chidi Mokeme points out his switch from STEM to STEAM with Arts being the letter of choice. According to him, and retracing his education journey,“My mind is still as curious and inquisitive as ever and these two qualities are, in my opinion, core attributes of science oriented students. And these days, there are really no more clear distinctions between art, science, and technology. The relationships and connections between the three are ever so seamless.” Reflecting on his acting career, he mentions “I did not, have not, and will not leave acting. Acting is my first love and fortunately has no retirement age, so I’m here for the long haul.” The truth is that the industry at some stage became an all comers affair. Every “Tom, Dick & Harry” thought the industry was the place to come and make a “quick buck.” Professionalism was relegated to the background and as is the case with other sectors of the Nigerian economy, excellence was being sacrificed on the altar of mediocrity.
In the second interview Prince Adigwu points out, “I would say higher education institutions (whether universities, polytechnics, and vocation institutions) need to step up their game by improving programmes to accommodate budding Filmmakers, and of course other stakeholders in the industry.” He went on to state, “To the best of my knowledge, there are a few Films Schools offering diploma courses in Acting, Directing and Cinematography etc. However, these are privately owned and do not offer degrees catering to the industry in a truly holistic way.” What needs to happen is,“we need Federal and State Universities to upgrade their “Theatre Arts Programmes” such that Film & TV Studies Degrees can become definitive careers. This can be achieved by ensuring the courses can become standalone programmes with Majors such as Production Finance, VFX, Special Effects, Production Services, Film Payroll Accounting, Props, Film Marketing, Film Insurance etc.”
On his part, and as an academic himself, Professor Ribio Nzeza Bunketi Buse points out that “there is a diversity talking about African universities. Some are doing more, and others less.” The following excerpt from our conversation is quite instructive,“while I was conducting my research to compile quantitative data on COVID-19 impact on the creative sector, I discovered that, in most cases, consulting firms were more involved in field-oriented research than our universities.”This was as recently as August 2020 – i.e., about a year ago.
Closing thoughts and why it matters
There couldn’t be a better way to sum up this piece than echoing the words of Kgomotlokoa Linda Thaba-Nkadimene and Cephas Makwara in their Journal of African Education editorial reflecting on the recently concluded webinar organised by Adonis Abbey Publishers “under the leadership of Professor Jideofor Adibe.”
“Although the Webinar was aimed at illuminating the challenges facing African higher education systems, it was also used as a platform to celebrate the 18th year of Adonis Abbey Publishers’ existence. From this webinar we learned that the Adonis Abbey Publishing Company was founded in 2003, by Prof Jideofor Adibe and some African Scholars who wanted to advance African Scholarship; and create a platform for novice and experienced Africans to disseminate African knowledge across African states.”
This resonates with my own final AJBER editorial entitledOn the competitiveness of Africa – a paradoxical economic regionpublished in April 2017. Fast-forward 4-5 years on, after an extensive level of participant observation, workshops and webinars (in the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown era) and international travel, an audacious, but pioneering book on the subject matter has emerged–The Creative Industries and International Business Development in Africa – by a leading publisher in business and management – Emerald Publishing.
About the Author
Nnamdi O. Madichie isResearch Fellow at the Bloomsbury Institute London and Professor of Marketing & Entrepreneurship at the Unizik Business School, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria. He is also Visiting Professor at the Coal City University, Enugu, Nigeria. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (FCIM), Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (FCMI), and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy of England & Wales (SFHEA). His research straddles broad areas of Marketing & Entrepreneurship cutting across geographic contexts, notably Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Professor Madichie is also past editor of the African Journal of Business and Economic Research (AJBER) published by Adonis & Abbey.ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8400-5527