The Afrinolly Effect
Although Nigeria is a renowned exporter of crude oil, the country’s poverty levels and unemployment figures are monumental. With corporate jobs not forthcoming, many Nigerians look to entrepreneurship and freelancing as an alternative – especially within the cultural and creative sector. This comes as no surprise though, as the country is home to Nollywood – rated the 3rd largest film industry in the world – as well as established music, fashion, literary and visual arts sectors that constantly export the country’s creativity abroad.
Even as self-employment thrives within the creative sector, these entrepreneurs need ample training, accompanied by amenities and opportunities that will inspire them to produce amazing content that will appeal to a global audience.
With Nigeria’s precarious economic situation, coupled with the dearth of functional infrastructure, many entrepreneurs find that access to the creative industry’s apparatuses is neither affordable nor available – especially in Lagos, the country’s commercial capital and the hub of its creative activities. The city, apart from being one of the country’s highest revenue-generating states, boasts a fair number of exhibition spaces, shows and festivals that showcase the country’s rich cultural heritage.
Realising that it would take a ton of engagement, combined with technology, expertise and content to drive the creative industry and help it compete favourably with its global counterparts, Chike and Jane Maduegbuna launched Afrinolly Limited in 2010. At the time, they aimed at using media technologies to advance engagement, expression and value creation within the film industry. To this end, the company launched the Afrinolly mobile app in 2010, to provide access to African entertainment content and also to act as a repository for Nigerian films. It also organised the Afrinolly Short Film Competition in 2012 and the Cinema4Change project in 2014 to promote aspiring filmmakers.
The company has since evolved into a creative hub whose focus is to match Nigerian creatives to the required skills, opportunities and facilities they need to conceive, produce and exhibit their ideas within the creative industry. As Chike Maduegbuna, Afrinolly’s CEO puts it, “the biggest disservice to young people is that we are speaking over their heads, so they do not understand how the industry works. When we bring in mentors to help them, they begin to understand the market and what goes on behind the scenes”.
Afrinolly is located in Oregun, a suburb of Lagos State and it is open to freelancers and entrepreneurs who want to collaborate in an energising and inspiring workspace. It also offers consultancy, training and production services to various institutions while mentoring small businesses and acting as their incubator until they become entities in their own right. The thrust is to nurture and empower a generation of talent who will channel their creativity into making transformative social change.
Even though Afrinolly is based in Lagos, where the bulk of activities in the creative industry is concentrated, it leverages on its digital and social media platforms to reach wider audiences in other locations. In an industry that lacks reliable statistical data and structure, this tactic has proved effective in enabling Afrinolly to succeed in the following: engage with various stakeholders; identify and map unreached demographics within the industry; broadcast career advancement opportunities; facilitate and participate in industry-specific discourse as well as design its training programmes.
The costs of this continuous investment in creative entrepreneurs are usually defrayed through partnerships and support from multinational organisations including British Council, Facebook, Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, Ford Foundation, Goethe-Institut, Google, Institut Français, the Lagos State Government, MacArthur Foundation and MTN. Each of these collaborations has helped to deliver capacity development across genres, advocacy-based content and empowerment initiatives to diverse demographics within the creative industry.
Notwithstanding its position as a livewire in Nigeria’s creative sector, Afrinolly also experiences the challenges of doing business in Nigeria, a country that currently occupies the 145th position on World Bank’s 2019 Ease of Doing Business Ranking. Funding, alongside intermittent government support – in terms of favourable policies and subsidies – are major problems and the hub sometimes has to depend on bank loans with cut-throat interest rates to fund its operations. Nevertheless, Afrinolly still aspires to become a model for similar spaces that cater to the blind spots of Nigeria’s creative industry, and remains undeterred in its quest to facilitate collaborations and discover innovative ways of expressing creativity.
This article was first published in issue 10.19 of Politik & Kultur, a publication of The German Culture Council.
Click here to read on Politik & Kultur’s website