With the recent announcement of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) for film industry development, the question of access to funding in Nollywood is once again a hot topic in the entertainment sector.
SMEDAN Director General Alhaji Muhammad Nadada Umar stated that the MOU aimed to create opportunities for small businesses to grow in the film industry, especially in regards to youth employment, revenue generation, poverty reduction and social stability in the country. SMEDAN, he said, would support the NFC with funding windows available to Nigerian entrepreneurs such as the SME credit guarantee scheme introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the funding scheme of the National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND).
This topic was reiterated during the Silverbird premiere last Wednesday of Communicating for Change’s documentary on Nigerian artists, RedHot Nigerian Creativity, and then again during a recent conversation I had with The Guardian on Sunday editor Jahman Anikulapo. Anikulapo suggested that instead of transient initiatives like the SMEDAN/NFC MOU or the current $USD 200 million Special Entertainment Fund that is administered by the Bank of Industry, the Federal Government should set up a permanent institution dedicated to creative industries development like the US National Endowment of the Arts (NEA).
The NEA is an American independent federal agency that receives annual appropriations from the US Congress to award grants and fellowships to creative industry professionals and organizations in such areas as Arts Education, Dance, Literature, Museums, Music, Theater, and Visual Arts. At present, the NEA awards more than 2,500 grants and cooperative agreements exceeding $USD 130 million. Since its establishment in 1965, the NEA has awarded over $USD 4 billion in grants to develop and sustain the American creative industries.
Anikulapo further proposed that setting aside 1% of the annual Companies Income Tax paid to the Federal Government could fund the Nigerian NEA and that a government-appointed committee of art experts could be tasked with evaluating each grant proposal.
What do you think of Anikulapo’s idea to counter the neglect of the creative industries in Nigeria by setting up a sustainable grant-making agency? What can be adapted from this American model to work within the Nigerian context? What type of framework needs to put in place to ensure that the grant-dispersal is free and fair?