For a long time, Nigerian creatives have shown strong consistency in building their art and pushing it out into the world. In 2018, Ayodeji “Wizkid” Balogun, a Nigerian pop music artist hosted a sold out concert at the 02 Arena in London. In January 2019, David “Davido” Adeleke, another young Nigerian pop artiste mirrored Wizkid’s success by hosting his own successful concert at the same venue. The 02 Arena is a state of the art arena with 20,000 capacity located right in the heart of busy London. Amidst a dazzling display of lights and music, Davido and Wizkid had fans from different parts of the United Kingdom trooping down to the O2 to watch them perform.

Alongside these two, other artistes like Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Flavour and Burna Boy also had really successful outings in Africa, Europe, South America and North America in 2018. This is in addition to Nigerian artistes hosting packed shows within Nigeria in preceding years.

The creative industry in Nigeria offers a path to structural transformation and holds immense opportunity for boosting economic growth in the country. The creative industry refers to a range of economic activities that deals with the generation and share of knowledge. It comprises areas like advertising, architecture, art, craft, design, fashion, film, music, performing arts, publishing amongst others. While Africa currently lags behind growth rates for the global creative industry, it is expected that the continent will improve on such rates in coming years and Nigeria seems poised to take over a huge portion of this projected growth.

PWC reports that revenue from the entertainment and music industry is expected to grow to $16.33 billion by 2021 with the support of digital technology and smart phones penetration. Nigeria’s influence in the music industry has shown steady growth and if the momentum is maintained, Nigerian entertainment will be netting a huge portion of that revenue.

Beyond music, Nigerian writers have also recorded incredible success. A quick look on Amazon shows that Nigerian writers like Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ayobami Adebayo, Pius Adesanmi, Akwaeke Emezi, Nnedi Okoroafor, Chigozie Obioma, Teju Cole, and Helen Oyeyemi are featured prominently on the top 30 bestsellers list making Nigeria the country with the highest selling African literature.

When I spent time outside Nigeria, I noted with some surprise how popular Nigerian music, books and film were with nationals of other African countries. My Kenyan, Ghanaian and South African friends would discuss animatedly with me about the latest Nollywood gossip. Other nationals also showed a love for Nigerian art. Many times in London, I would hear Nigerian music playing quietly on people’s phones, as I walked on the road. Whenever we went dancing, it shocked me to see everyone singing along with the Nigerian songs so that sometimes, the DJ would pause a song in the middle to encourage the crowd to sing along even more.

In film, Nigerian movies are a staple across the African continent showing a large consumption. My Ghanaian friend would often stare at his phone, laughing in intervals and whenever I asked what was funny, he would tilt his screen to show me a Nollywood comedy in play.

In fashion, Nigerian brands like Lisa Folawiyo, Deola Sagoe, Frank Oshodi, Zizi Cardow have set the pace for African fashion. Currently, the global fashion industry is valued at $1.5 trillion while sub-Saharan Africa’s apparel and footwear market has been valued at $31bn according to Euromonitor. The market is expected to grow even more in the next five years as personal incomes increase and the continent’s economies grow, with added tradeoffs around job creation and supply chain logistics.

The continent has shown eagerness to develop its clothing (apparel manufacturing) capacities for some time now, but efforts have been frustrated by dearth of infrastructure, capital and Asia’s domination of the industry globally. However, rising cost of production in China presents Africa a golden opportunity to ‘reclaim’ its fashion industry and invite long-term investments.

The reality of current Nigeria is stark. A country with a huge population, where 50% is made up of young persons under the age of 15. Job creation efforts are discouraging as the public and private sector are unable to create enough jobs to keep pace with population growth.

Agriculture will not move Nigeria into the knowledge economy. While it makes sense to support agriculture in Nigeria, the truth remains that agricultural activities will not help the Nigerian economy to catch up with the rest of the world. We can attempt to boost manufacturing but our formal manufacturing sector is less than 4% and the informal sector lacks the technical skills, state backing and global access to truly make it transformational. The advanced world has moved very far into the knowledge economy and if we hope to catch up, we need to take a cue from Rwanda. This means that while we continue to support agrarian activities and implement better policies to support local manufacturing, we should also place priority on the knowledge sector.

Here, the creative industry provides an alternative. Young Nigerians are creative and such creativity can be harnessed and fine-tuned. We need to start pushing more creativity in our schools, encouraging students to explore their hidden talents and tap into their problem solving skills. My foundation hosts a literacy competition and every year we feature workshops on writing (poetry, prose and essay) and boardgame design. We do this to encourage children to explore their creative abilities.

With the numerous gains mapped out for the creative sector in future, Nigeria should begin to position itself as a player in the creative space for first mover advantage. Our creatives in music, fashion, film and literature have shown us that it is possible so that with concerted effort, the sector could become truly transformational. Market targets are local, continental and global as there are consumers of African creations in every part of the world.

It is possible to leverage on our people’s creativity to push growth. We have the resource and the numbers but we must start now to move beyond oil and the creative industry looks particularly promising.

Zainab Haruna is the founder of Decipher Solutions, a not for profit that works to support education and job creation efforts in Nigeria. She tweets from @Zennyharry.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of Nigerian Diary