PROTOCOL: The Commissioner for Social Affairs, Your Excellency Amir Elfadi, my colleagues, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.
Let me welcome all of us to this virtual meeting. May I also commend the African Union Commission for organizing the forum. This virtual meeting is a sign of the times, and a poignant reminder of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the world. This forum gives us the opportunity to discuss, and proffer solutions, to the current challenges brought upon the Art, Culture and Heritage Sector.
2. The Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted on our world. There is no question about that. But while every area of human endeavour has been affected, I make bold to say that the Art, Culture and Heritage Sector has been among the worst hit. This is so because the entire industry is audience-centred and, with the social distancing, ban on mass gathering and travel restriction put in place globally, the industry has taken a hit. The main challenge before us, therefore, is how to give the industry a shot in the arm in a post-Covid-19 world.
3. For us here in Nigeria, the impact has been particularl devastating, because of the importance and the relevance of the sector to the national economy. The Nigeria Creative Industry is large, diverse, dynamic and critical for economic growth, development and diversification. It is the biggest job creator after agriculture, with particularly great opportunities for women and the youth. The Industry also contributes between 2.5 and 3% to the nation’s GDP
4. This is why we have decided to face the challenges squarely.
Realizing the imperative of having a collective and government-supported approach in dealing with the situation, we have set up a 22-member stakeholders committee to come up with immediate, short and long term economic stimulus and initiatives for the industry, in order to mitigate the effect of the pandemic on the sector.
5. More specifically, the committee is tasked with assessing th expected impact of the pandemic on the industry in general; advising the Government on how to mitigate job and revenue losses in the industry as well as to create succour for the industry small businesses; suggesting the type of taxation and financing that ar best for the industry at this time to encourage growth, and advising the Government on any other measure or measures that can be undertaken to support the industry.
6. In addition, we have decided to expedite the process of establishing the National Endowment for the Arts, with the main objectives of supporting every medium and area of creative activity in the field of art as well as fostering professional excellence in the arts, among others. The mechanism for the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts has been on for the past 30 years, but we are now set to work with the National Assembly to remove whatever has been impeding the set-up for the Endowment. We believe there is no better time than now to establish the National Endowment for the Arts, because it will catalyze the rebound of the entire industry.
7. I have no doubt that the measures we are putting in place will yield positive results in sustaining the Creative Industry in Nigeria in the days to come. I also look forward to sharing in the experiences from other member-nations of the African Union in tackling the challenges occasioned by the pandemic.
8. Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I strongly hope all the objectives of this Forum will be met, and will also provide an all-inclusive
inter-disciplinary bond that places premium on culture as a sine qua non for all developmental initiatives in Africa. It is also my sincere hope that this summit will, in a most creative way, provide practical, measured, and systematic recommendations that will foster public private initiatives for the development of the Creative Industry in Africa.
9. Thank you for your kind attention, and I wish us all fruitful deliberations.