At NCAC forum, experts canvass support for indigenous skills

Ambassador Joe Keshi (right); D.G, NCAC, Mrs. Dayo Keshi; Dr. Anthonia Ashiedu and the keynote speaker, Prof. Pat Utomi at Forum held last Wednesday… in Abuja

Ambassador Joe Keshi (right); D.G, NCAC, Mrs. Dayo Keshi; Dr. Anthonia Ashiedu and the keynote speaker, Prof. Pat Utomi at Forum held last Wednesday… in Abuja

No nation can attain sustainable development by relying solely on technology transfer without a conscious effort at engaging indigenous skills as the foundation of her advancement. This was the submission of members of the art community and their counterparts from the business environment as they brainstormed on the economic viability of the art and creative sector of economy.

The platform was a Round Table Forum organized by the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), as part of its programmes to mark the council at 40 years. The event, which held last Wednesday at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, also served to unveil the anniversary logo. As expected, the forum was well attended with guests from the art and business communities, as well as from the academia.

Some of them included Professor of Political Economy, Pat Utomi, former director, NCAC, now a lecturer in the Department of History, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Professor Sule Bello, who served as chairman of the occasion and the Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Abuja, Professor Mabel Evwierhoma. Others were the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Mrs. Nkechi Ejele, represented by the ministry’s Director of International Affairs, Mr. George Ufot.

There were also heads of various ministry parastatals, among them Director General, Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), Chief Ferdinand Anikwe, General Manager, National Theatre (NA), Mallam Kabir Yusuf; Artistic Director, National Troupe of Nigeria, Mr. Akinsola M. Adejuwon; Director General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Mallam Usman Yusuf Abdallah as well as representatives of chief executives of National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) and National Gallery of Art (NGA) and Ambassador Joe Keshi.

Apart from Utomi who presented the keynote address, several scholarly papers were presented on the economic potentials of the art sector. Some of the titles include ‘The Economic Importance of Nigeria’s Cultural Industry’ by the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr. Olusegun  Awolowo, ‘Financing the Creative Industry’ by the Managing Director, Bank of Industry, Mr. Waheed Olagunju as well as ‘Strengthening the Skills and Production Capacity of the Arts and Crafts Industry’ by the Director General, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Alhaji Bature U. Masari.

Papers discussants were Chief Ferdinand Anikwe of CBAAC, Enwierhoma, as well as former Commissioner for Poverty Alleviation, Delta State, Dr. Anthonia Ashiedu.

In her welcome address, the NCAC boss, Mrs Dayo Keshi, hoped that the forum as the intellectual segment of the celebration would afford scholars, artists, investors and other stakeholders in the industry the opportunity to exchange ideas on how to reposition the sector for greater benefits.

Accepting the fact that no nation of the world can indeed boast of a sustainable development by relying heavily on technology transfer without a conscious effort at engaging indigenous skills as the foundation of her advancement, Mrs. Keshi said such understanding gave impetus to the forum. She was convinced that at the end of the deliberations, there would have emerged, ideas that would midwife a new economic base through the arts and culture industry.

“With a population of over 170 million, Nigeria is one of the largest markets in the world. All that is required from the government and stakeholders of the Nigerian arts and crafts industry is conscious and concerted efforts towards developing the capacity to undertake supply of large volume and high standard products to dominate local market”, Keshi said.

With Showcasing the Inevitable Role of Culture in National Development and Economic Diversification as theme, she also hoped that the future of Nigerian arts and Culture would be clearly defined.

According to her, such development would further “drive home the economic importance of our cultural industries and the urgent need to encourage structured investments in the sector, lay solid foundation for the projection of cultural and creative industries as economic goldmine as well as challenge industry practitioners to strive towards acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge that would enhance the production of goods that are capable of competing favourably in the global market”.

The outcome of the forum, Keshi stated, would also help to develop the appropriate structures and the required capacity and skills needed by the sector to ensure its sustainability, provide a direction to the sector in such a way that it would empower and expand the nation’s cultural industry with a view to repositioning it as a major player in economic development.

To achieve these goals, Keshi underscored the role NCAC has to play. According to her, the Council on its part would encourage the display and sales of arts and crafts products at all major State events and conferences held in Nigeria; encourage the imprinting of cultural motif in all postcards and government invitation cards to events, as this will create awareness and appreciation of Nigerian arts and culture as well as work on the school uniform project aimed at encouraging the use of local fabric such as adire for the production of school uniforms nationally.

The Council under the leadership of Keshi also pledged to encourage more youths into other creative industries especially the crafts related ones to a level that equals the kind of youth participation that the nation currently have in the film, music and fashion industries.

For the chairman of the occasion, Professor Sule Bello, everything about culture is crated by man and where a nation develops it culture, it develops the culture to create. But where there is failure in the culture of creation, there would be disorganizations and failures in overall development.

Bello therefore stressed the need for stakeholders to raise consciousness about the potentials of culture in the minds of government. He also urged Nigerians to dedicate themselves to helping create the kind of country that they would be proud of.

In their respective presentations, resource persons took the audience on the totality of culture, its economic viability as well as roles of government and operators in the production, marketing and promotion of indigenous arts and crafts.

When it was his turn, the Keynote Presenter, Prof Utomi tasked federal government on the need to restructure the Civil Service to enable it play prominent role in the economy.

He added that there was need for a synergy between the public sector and the entrepreneurs as according to him, when entrepreneurs prosper, Nigeria prospers and same will trickle down on Civil Servants and generality of Nigerians.

The Prof was confident that the recent drop in the price of crude oil in the international market was more of a blessing in disguise to Nigeria. For him, the situation would compel the government to seek better ways of repositioning the economy.
Utomi therefore suggested that every local government in Nigeria should have arts and crafts centres embedded with tourism facilities.

He regretted that Nigeria was yet to develop its tourism base even as foreigners visit the country daily.

“Unless we create funds and incubators to support enterprise in arts and crafts, we will continue to short-change ourselves greatly because out of culture; we can build an industry much bigger than oil”, Utomi said.

To strengthen the arts and crafts industry, D.G, SMEDAN, Bature Masari, in his presentation proffered that effective interaction and dialogue between the government and the private sector would play a major role in creating better investment climate; that government should institute a simple, transparent, stable and enforceable regulatory environment for the industry and that there should be an improved access to Business Development Service (BDS) as well as effective access to finance, which is the most important factor in determining the survival and growth of arts and crafts industries.

On the economic importance of Nigeria’s cultural industries presented by the Executive Director, Nigeria Export Commission, Olusegun Awolowo noted that though the creative industry existed in small scale and cluster groups, it was an essential force in driving the economy through job creation and foreign exchange generation for the country.

Stressing that there was a huge potential market for the industry in the Diaspora, Awolowo stated that efforts should be made to tap into market.

“A useful scheme could be the Nigeria Export Promotion Council’s Diaspora Export Programme including the Nigeria Heritage City (NHC) and the Nigeria Cuisine Beyond borders (NCBB).

“There is a huge global market for home accessories that account for not less than $100 billion and Nigeria can also tap into this opportunity”, he said.

Ensuring quality of creative products, establishment of centres for skill acquisition and manpower development to boost professionalism and competence of young artisans and entrepreneurs were recommended both for government and private organisation in the country, especially the creative sector.

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