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

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.

Amid Amidi

Amid Amidi is Cartoon Brew's Publisher and Editor-at-large.