WIMBIZ Annual Conference| Day 1 | Plenary session 3

Bolanle Austen-Peters moderated the session on ‘The Billion Naira Tourism Industry’ and started by expanding the scope of the topic to include everything that concerns the creative industry. Obi Asika represented the music and content sector, with Fatima Fantis Mohammed and Omoyemi Akerele representing the food and fashion sector respectively.

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I’ll be ta talking about three major issues discussed during this session that struck and stuck with me. They were the need for infrastructure, the need for structure and a better understanding of the value chain and a dire need for documentation and telling stories that matter.
BAP opened the conversation with her experience on tour ‘WAKA The Musical’ in London. One key thing she took away was the importance of the arts and the creative industry to economic growth. With the challenge of the current exchange rate, it was an advantage to see the company earning in Pounds which was getting re-invested back into the Nigerian economy. Even more striking was the level of attention and patronage the play generated. Art has to be seen for all that it is; not just entertainment but a wealth generating avenue that can contribute significantly to the country’s GDP.
Now it’s easy to say that the creative industry is one of the fastest growing industries in Nigeria and this you won’t be wrong. The global visibility for the music and movie industry, fashion and even food is a testament to this. However, each of the sectors are more than their finished products. This is why a deep understanding of the structures across these sectors matter.
In fashion, for example, Omoyemi Akerele explains the interconnectedness of different industries to produce the final retail product that is obviously referred to as fashion. Meanwhile, before the achievement of this, there is the place of agriculture; real estate; power; logistics and connectivity; human resource; standardization and quality control, etc.
The disregard for some of these sectors in discussions about the macroeconomic state of the nation is born out of ignorance of how much further this affects our wealth as a people.
Bringing this down to individuals in these sectors, there are hidden opportunities beyond retail. Fashion accessories like buttons and zips are mostly imported into the country; with most of them being substandard. This is a ready market and most the resources for production can be sourced locally.
We need to think beyond the finished product and truly understand how it is produced. This is the only we can build these industries and bring employment opportunities to the fore.
On a personal level, it gives more options to young people interested in the fashion industry but without a talent for design.
The same holds for the food industry as well as tourism, hospitality, music and the arts.
Fatima spoke about capitalizing on opportunities in the food industry, like creating packaging materials for the products; there’s farming to consider as well as real estate and logistics. The opportunities are boundless when we step back and look at things from end to end.
With regards to the music and movie industry, Obi Asika impressed on the need for artiste to go beyond their act and being brand ambassadors to owning and selling merchandise. A few artiste are already going this route by owning design labels, perfumes and hair products and it should be encouraged.
He also spoke about action figures for kids. In terms of culture and the power of the creative industry to shape the fortune of a country, it is important that we start shaping the minds of the young generation especially through the content that we create. We need to tell our own stories and press on the values we know will further the cause of the economy we desire.

During audience participation, Chiamaka, the Social Prefect spoke about the untapped tourism opportunities in the country, passionately highlighting several beautiful regions that Nigerians should visit in place of visiting foreign countries for holidays.
It is highly important that we shine a light on the things that are not only great about our country but have the potential to generate income across several strata of the economy.
Arts, hospitality and tourism are channels we can use for reinstating national pride, growing income and expanding opportunities across the country.

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