As Nigeria faces what critics call its worst economic crisis in generations, the arts, entertainment and recreation sector is defying the trend. It grew 8.4 per cent in this year’s first quarter, according to the National Bureau of Statistics making some believe it could be a silver lining in the West African country's economic cloud.
“The industry has been booming and this is why we’re seeing great stuff every day from the entertainers” said Falz, a recent winner of the viewers’ choice best international act at the BET awards, in an interview with the Nigerian Guardian.
It is a development that several would agree with both in Nigeria and abroad. In May, Wizkid - one of Nigeria’s pop chart staples - found himself at the top of the U.S singles chart after his collaboration with the Canadian rapper Drake. Their song "One Dance" has spent seven consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The success is not limited to music. iROKOtv, an international distribution platform that specialises in Nigerian film content, now has over 6 million viewers in 178 countries.
In 2014, auditing firm PwC estimated that the Nigerian entertainment industry was worth $4 billion. It projects that the figure will double by 2019.
In an interview with CNBC Africa, the acclaimed singer of "African Queen", Innocent Idibia (Tubaba), testified to the growth of the entertainment sector. "There are so many guys coming out that are taking the music industry seriously.”
This growth has not been restricted to traditional entertainment but has trickled down to the development and expansion of supporting fields.
“We have seen an increase in the people that work in the background: professional managers, entertainment lawyers, publicists, and stylists. There are so many things springing up as a result of the growth in the music industry.”
However, the entertainment industry continues to struggle with piracy. It is a battle that Tubaba does not believe it is winning. “These days some people see your music and they put it out there for people to download for free. People don’t place value on intellectual property in Nigeria. The government is trying its best, but I don’t think the law enforcement agents really understand when a law is being broken in terms of piracy.”
The Nigerian Copyright Commission estimates that over $1 billion is lost to piracy every year. As a result, it has increased its efforts to prosecute infringers of copyright laws, and launched numerous campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of piracy. Its sister organisation, the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) filed a N16 billion ($57 million) lawsuit against Nigerian telecommunication giant MTN, for numerous counts of copyright infringement in June this year.
The Nigerian entertainment industry’s refusal to buckle in an increasingly gloomy economic climate has led analysts to wonder if it can become a major revenue earner after oil. To encourage its growth, regulatory bodies will have to do more to ensure that piracy is less of an issue.