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Nigeria Wants To Train ‘An Army Of Animation Professionals’ In 4 Years

Nigeria, currently the seventh-most-populous country in the world and projected to become the third-most-populous within the next 25 years, believes that animation could be a major driver of economic growth in the coming decades.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

Last Monday, the country’s minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, gave a speech at the opening of the 7th African Digital TV Development Meeting in Beijing, China in which he touted Nigeria’s commitment to growing its animation sector. (The image at the top of this post is from one of Nigeria’s most successful animation studios, EVCL, which produces Bino and Fino.)

In his talk, Mohammed explained that “the advent of a fast-growing ‘digital age’ in Nigeria, the growing popularity of the internet, and the establishment of various media-distribution platforms have given rise to an increasing demand for content and services like animation and digital artistry.”

He said that the Nigerian government was prioritizing the development of its animation and creative industries into a new growth sector and would invest resources to create a highly-skilled workforce. The government, he said, had already created a program called N-Power Creative, that he described as a “job creation and empowerment initiative” that would give young Nigerians the creative and technological skills to create animation, graphic illustration, film scripts, comics, and post production.

The country’s goal is to create a workforce of 15,000 creative industry professionals by the end of 2017, boosting to 75,000 by the end of 2020. Mohammed said that by 2018, the country would have a pool of professionals who could produce content locally for other Nigerian economic sectors, including tv, education and training, architecture, film, animation, vfx, and gaming.

Mohammed reeled off figures that showed why Nigeria was an attractive market for animation content, such as having Africa’s largest population of internet users (86.2 million people) as well as an under-14 population of 70 million (about 10 million more than the United States). The country also has one of the world’s largest film industries – Nollywood – which he described as a “ready-made conduit for animation-based content.”

The end goal, however, is to also position Nigeria as an affordable animation service provider and co-production partner for major entertainment companies in other countries, following the same patterns of industry growth in countries like China, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and before them, South Korea and Japan.

Mohammed acknowledged that Nigeria still lacked many things its animation industry needs, such as adequate training resources for its artists and financial support to grow its industry. Further, he said that partnerships with software, hardware, distribution, and animation production resources were “nearly non-existent.”

Additionally, prior administrations, he said, “did not prioritize the animation industry and so it suffered from lack of government support and enabling policies. For the animation industry to thrive, the existence of favorable government support, policies, trade agreements is paramount.”

And then there were the things he didn’t mention. For example, if the government wants to build its creative sector, it first needs to provide basic infrastructure like consistent electricity.

Even if Mohammed’s projections for growth turn out to be too optimistic or unfeasible within the timeframe he’s promoting, it’s nevertheless an encouraging – and even remarkable – sign that the government of a major African country recognizes that developing its animation sector could be a viable economic path for its citizens.

Cartoon Brew has increased its coverage of industry development across the African continent, including looking at animation in Ghana and Nigeria, and we will continue to focus on different countries in the region who are trying to join the global animation economy.

The text of Mohammed’s entire speech can be read below:

I will like to express my immense pleasure and gratitude for the invitation extended to me and my delegation to attend this 7th African Digital TV Development Seminar here at the scenic Yanqi Lake Resort. I am particularly delighted because I am among friends and staunch allies of Nigeria.
Lai Mohammed

It is no longer news that a 2014 BBC World Service poll revealed Nigeria to be the most pro-Chinese country in the world, with 85 percent of Nigerians viewing Beijing’s influence in the world positively. Nothing has changed.

2. The great Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, once remarked: Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream.

Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream. China is an undisputed power today because it has cultivated great success via boundless optimism and persistently finding and creating solutions. The world has watched the Chinese people unite in the face of difficult challenges, looked inwards for ways to nurture and actualize their dreams and have succeeded spectacularly.

3. The Chinese story is an inspiration for the ages and one the Nigerian people can find some encouragement in. Like China, Nigeria continues to look for ways to harness and optimize its teeming human resources. Like China, it continues to look for ways to build a just, equitable and prosperous society for all its citizens while fighting waste, corruption and other socio-economic virulence. And of course,

Nigeria keeps striving for organic, intuitive and homegrown solutions, undaunted by setbacks and false dawns, in its quest to turn problems to progress and claim its place amongst the global greats. This quest has led it to embrace and adopt digital technology solutions.

4. Everywhere you look these days, digital technology is defying and disrupting the old ways of doing things, democratizing access to information and improved quality of life as well as proving a great leveler for people in Africa and other developing parts of the world. It’s a brave new world and the frenetic, live-at-the-click-of-a-button pace is not for the faint of heart.

The lifespan of digital products continue to plummet. And the future predicted by popular science fiction, the future bustling with concepts like augmented and virtual reality, self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, the Internet of Things, 3D printing and nanotechnology, no longer looks or sounds outlandish anymore. We seem to live it every other week.

5. Nigeria’s quest to diversify its economy and stimulate business and employment growth has compelled it to examine the digital economy closely and invest in it more assiduously. For example, the advent of a fast-growing “digital age” in Nigeria, the growing popularity of the Internet, and the establishment of various media-distribution platforms have given rise to an increasing demand for content and services like animation and digital artistry. Ranked 7th in global internet usage, methods of communication and entertainment in the country are fast evolving. Corporate entities and advertising agencies are adopting new creative methods of getting information across.

The creative industry, of which film and animation are an integral part, is developing and adopting new technology and the demand for content shows tremendous growth potential with the advent of various digital platforms. A widening gap has been opened and is barely being filled, hence the need for an animation industry to keep up with global trends.

6. The animation market is exploding worldwide. It currently represents 25% of the world audiovisual market, a figure that is only set to increase with the introduction of new delivery systems, changing scheduling patterns, and a proliferation of new media forms.

The major animation markets include the United States, Canada, Japan, China, France, Britain, South Korea and Germany, while the major emerging animation markets include China, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. In Africa, we have South Africa, Kenya, and Egypt.

7. American animation has developed as America’s sixth largest pillar industry; in Japan, the animation industry has outperformed automobile, iron & steel industries to be the third largest industry; and South Korea has undertaken nearly one third of the global animation production business. Most of the segments in the animation industry are growing at the rate of 10% Year over Year, and some segments are growing at 15% Year on Year. The output value of global animation industry has reached over US$300 billion, and animation related derivatives have exceeded US$500 billion. The animation industry has gradually become a pillar of the national economy and a new economic growth engine in some countries.

8. The multinational animation studios leverage various forms of partnership, co-production and joint ventures with global partners (countries) who subsidize their national film industries, including animation. Funding flows for co-production from Hollywood to other countries and vice versa have become common practice. As co-production increases, animation studios in China and India have become popular co-production partners of studios in Europe, Japan, and North America.

From the point of view of the major studios, co-production provides subsidized/cheaper production cost as well as flexibility, while working with small studios and bring new and fresh creativity from other countries.

9. Outsourcing of animation has also become widespread. Many entertainment giants such as The Walt Disney Company and IMAX are beginning to outsource an increasing amount of their animation production to Asian countries, particularly India, while other companies are outsourcing animation from India for commercials and computer games.

10. In all these, Nigeria and indeed much of Africa scarcely play a part in this industry, but aim to rectify the situation by making a grab for their share of the pie in this massive economic boom. Now, why does Nigeria believe it has a shot at this? In the first instance, because it has a ready domestic audience and market. Nigeria has about 86.2 million people online, and that’s 46.1% of the population, ranking it number one in Africa and number seven in the world. It has 44 million TV viewing homes in the country. Nigeria is expected to switch over to digital broadcasting when all 44 million homes have to invest in purchasing Set-Top Boxes.

11. In addition, Nigeria’s telecommunication industry has grown to $25 billion, and active lines are said to be well over 113 million, in comparison with 450,000 people and $500 million investment portfolio in year 2000, again ranking it no. 1 in Africa and 11th in the world. Nigeria’s smartphone penetration is estimated at 15.5 million. 70% of the population are below 30 years of age, about 50% are below 20 (approximately 80 million), and over 40% of the total population are children under 14 (over 70 million), while about 20% of the population are teens (approx. 30 million). These demographics amply demonstrate that the uptake of animated content is already guaranteed.

12. Secondly, the Nigerian film industry, ranked third in the world on the scale of output, has content consumed nationally and globally and is a ready-made conduit for animation-based content.

Thirdly, the country boasts of an incredible treasure trove of literature, brimming with exciting classics such as a Forest of a Thousand Daemons, a book translated from its original Yoruba language to English by the Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, The Lion and the Jewel, The Passport of Mallam Illia, and Things Fall Apart. These works are crammed with wondrous worlds and richly-realized characters that can be successfully adapted into animated feature length movies and TV series, all capable of astounding and entertaining global audiences. Finally, the country has an English-speaking workforce that can potentially provide a large supply of low-cost, high-quality, creative talent for a thriving animation industry.

13. So, what are the challenges Nigeria and other developing African countries facing in joining the animation party? For one, lack of adequate training for creative talent and animators.

To build a competent workforce capable of meeting global manpower demands, Nigeria needs to train competent animation, graphic artists and post production professionals. This will cover all the needs of the animation, film and entertainment industry at large. Secondly, it suffers from lack of funding. Insufficient financial support affects the quality of production.

This derives directly from inadequate investment in skill development and production tools to achieve competitive global standards. It also prevents independent producers from taking advantage of the global animation space. As far back as 2008, the top four animation producers spent between 150 -250 million euros per country on animation. With just 20% of this, Nigeria can achieve the same production output of animation content that these countries boast of.

14. Thirdly, useful partnerships are nearly non-existent. Partnerships in terms of software, hardware, distribution, and animation production resources will need to be forged in order to derive maximum value from the investments in training and production. Finally, for a long time, previous regimes did not prioritize the animation industry and so it suffered from lack of government support and enabling policies. For the animation industry to thrive, the existence of favorable government support, policies, trade agreements is paramount. In China, for example, there has been a lot of encouragement to develop animation.

15. What are we currently doing to rectify the situation and help build up the animation industry in Nigeria? In the words of Confucius: If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people. We must train an army of animation professionals.

The current administration is committed to developing the animation/creative industry into a new growth sector by promoting Nigeria’s creativity, and creating a highly-skilled workforce for the industry. Already, it has created a programme called N-POWER CREATIVE, a job creation and empowerment initiative by the Federal Government of Nigeria for the purpose of training and encouraging the development of creative and technological skills in young Nigerians such as animation, graphic illustration, script writing, storytelling, sequential arts, and post production. With such skills, young Nigerians will be able to find employment in the ever-growing creative and animation industry. Its target will be to equip about 15,000 creative industry professionals across story/script writing, graphics/illustration, animation, post production by 2017, and that figure should rise to 75,000 by 2020 year
end.

16. By 2018, we shall have a pool of creative industry professionals locally producing content for and providing services to enhance and grow other Nigerian industries and economic sectors as follows: Television, Education and training, Architecture, Nollywood and entertainment, Print, Animation and visual effects, as well as gaming. We also aim to:

  • Be ranked among the top emerging markets in the global animation industry by 2018 year end.
  • $5-10B additional revenues from overseas markets by 2020 through co-productions and outsourcing from other major animation and creative industry markets especially US and Europe.
  • Be ranked among the top 10 countries with major global animation producing markets for the global industry by 2022.

17. We also aim to initiate government and private funding to jumpstart the animation industry. We are working on a slew of annual exhibitions for the Creative Industry.

18. In conclusion, let us reiterate that global animation industry is at a thriving point with content from global locations taking key positions in annual growth. Nigeria’s entertainment in film has positioned itself as the third largest in the world and has content consumed nationally and globally. Noting the influence of already established Nigerian entertainment media, the Nigerian animation industry will extend this effect through producing home-grown animation content as well as becoming an outsourcing destination for global animation services. Within two years,

Nigeria will also position itself as a global power house of the top 5 emerging market destinations for outsourced animation from key animation producing nations. All these might look daunting, but we are encouraged, once again, by the immortal words of Lao Tzu: Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. With your kind support, we can achieve spectacular success.

  • Marc Hendry

    alright! Let’s see some stuff we haven’t seen before!

  • Awesome! I wish them every success.

  • James Madison

    What Langi, and Marc, said.

  • Tomm

    This is very positive – hope it’s a success and we see some more Nigerian animated features and shows soon

    • Patience.. patience!!! If all goes well premiere would be February 2019 (120 minutes)
      The longest I have done is 28 minutes. Its on VOD at
      http://vimeo.com/ondemand/legacyofrubies
      BUT one can get a free viewing code directly.
      In any case, do please keep your fingers crossed for us cos 120 minutes its going to be challenging.!!!
      @Amidi Amidi, I don’t know if links are allowed here. If they aren’t, you are welcome to remove it.

  • Troy

    “did not prioritize the animation industry and so it suffered from lack of government support and enabling policies. For the animation industry to thrive, the existence of favorable government support, policies, trade agreements is paramount.”

    Fortunately for them that is a plausible possibility to work, unlike here in the U.S…… Asking for a workforce in 4 years is ambitious but as this article states there are some issues with the resources so I am pretty much expecting around 6-10 years at best. Though to be frank stating that animation is a 6th pillar to the economy in America sounds fake if it is being used like a cheap fast proxy to have money flowing. All in all let’s expand more animators than the world can handle and see where this pillar will be.

  • Claye Edou

    That’s great! Three years ago I stated my own animation studio in Douala, Cameroon (facebook.com/cledleyproductions) and we are currently working on our first full lenght animated feature, “Minga et la cuillère cassée (Minga and the Broken spoon)” (facebook.com/mingalefilm)

  • Bisong Olaoye Taiwo

    Lofty ambitions, and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but I’ll believe it when I see it. If prior experience has taught us anything, its that our government loves to throw fancy numbers at ambitious goals and never really follows through.

    Case in point is the electricity issue listed above. We were told by our current president in 2016 that the country would generate 6000 Megawatts of electricity by end of 2016 and 10,000 by 2019.

    Well…it’s 2017 now and as at January we were still at 3500, which is nowhere near enough to power a nation of over 180 million people.

    Again, it’s positive news (at least they’re thinking about it) and of course I want our animation industry to grow, but let’s not get too excited until we see some actual progress on the government side of things.

  • Chicken McPhee

    Finally, some good news.

  • Interesting news. I could feel somethings were bubbling regarding animation in our country. Let’s see how things turn out. I wish them all the best with it. Of course, due to past government failed promises I can understand why people will be skeptical about this new initiative. Any help and support is welcomed.

  • Infrastructure and other practical issues aside, increasing the diversity of content in the global animation community can only be a good thing. I’m so excited to see what the future holds for animators and animation in Nigeria, and I’m grateful that Cartoon Brew continues to cover international developments like this; thank you. :)

  • zid

    What they ought to do if they want more legitimate businesses to do business with them is talk to their government about all the human rights violations it allows to take place. Nigeria is one of the most anti-LGBT nations on the planet. Every day members of the LGBT community are beaten or killed and its government not only turns a blind eye they in many cases either encourage it or perpetrate it.

    Until their culture becomes a more accepting one I would hope animation companies refuse to do business with anyone in that country.

    • As a Nigerian I FULLY support LGBT rights. I see where you are coming from regarding the government on LGBT issues even though I’m surprised that is the first thing you thought of after reading this article. But if you are to take human rights violations as the yardstick with which to do business with companies in a country or even a country’s government, then there would be a very short list of countries .

    • zid, As an animator and pro LGBT, I do understand your concerns PERFECTLY, but as already said, that should not be the basis of cutting “Animation business” ties with the country. In my opinion, education is better than boycott

      Question: How about some series or clips which can EDUCATE concerning these LGBT issues. Even if no-one reacts, just put it out there?
      Answer: Things are being cone currently in that direction. If you want more information, contact me directly.

      BTW: I keep imagining how absurd it would look if some people called death squads for some others, just because they have different culinary tastes. #FoodForThought

  • Good news!
    However, (without wanting to sound like a party pooper) this is beginning to look like waiting for the second coming of Christ! We have heard this every year since 2009.
    A lot of people are doing stuff on their own these days. There is an immense INDEPENDENT progress. Certainly some studios have received start up funding but if it was from these sources, I cannot confirm.

    Also, the sad truth is that without ELECTRICITY, no nation is moving forward anywhere.
    To that effect, my suggestion is that they take care of the infrastructural deficiency because animators cannot go back to drawing on sand. We are in the 21st century!!!

    Nevertheless, I hope something FINALLY hapens!