In the recent past, the financial services industry couldn’t figure out how to provide a framework that worked in order to keep the creative industry in business. That was why the industry got stuck in a creative rut that forced many creators to give up their passion and look for something else to do.
But that is about to change after the hosting of ‘Born in Africa’ festival last December, where over 10,000 young Nigerians gathered at the Eko Atlantic City in a celebration of all the homegrown talents whom the continent has nurtured, with a promise of the future of immersive and integrated entertainment.
This was followed up four months later, last April in Lagos, by the Bankers’ Committee’s pledge of N200 billion credit support to the creative industry, and others, at single digit interest rate, according to Mr. Herbert Wigwe, the Access Bank boss, who briefed the press at the end of the committee meeting,.
Earlier, at the Committee’s 342nd meeting in Abuja in February, Wigwe had said: “We believe that the sector will provide and generate significant amount of employment, given how Nigerians in the creative sector have done well in Nollywood, Music. It can have significant impact on employment. Of course, Nigeria can become the heart of tourism if that whole sector is handled. It could also be a major source of foreign exchange earning capacity
“In the music sector, there could be creation of a music academy, several tech hubs would be created in IT sector and funding for people who basically want to develop their talents as far as IT is concerned. There would be the creation of a world class fashion shared facility for people in the sector to have access to facilities that would enable them work as world class operators. All of these efforts will happen before the beginning of next quarter where different participants, working with international institutions can start basically with relevant infrastructure to support talent development and improvement of content in the different things that they do.”
At the Lagos meeting, he disclosed: “We got the approval to take it to the next level, which is simply to do a final presentation and share it with the market and how it’s going to happen. So by next week there will be announcement for people who want to participate in each of these segments.
“The specific amount will depend on which of the strata you fall into and what you are doing. The loans are for a maximum of 10 years, they are single-digit interest rate loans and reflective of the fact that in these industries, what you require is long term financing at single-digit; while we will ask for collateral it will be flexible”
In ‘Born in Africa’, Access Bank sold the vision of its helmsman, Wigwe, which eventually metamorphosed into credit support for the creative industry.
The man understood that there are underexplored technical and business elements to any successful creative endeavor, knowing how to create a balance between an innovative product and a successful vehicle to market and profit from that product. Though Herbert himself never pursued a creative career, his interest in finding and sustaining that balance never waned.
As a global traveller, Herbert had experienced first-hand the convenience of having a physical presence in every city, and he sought to replicate that through a series of mergers with other banks whose business ethos complemented his vision. Those mergers allowed Wigwe expand Access Bank’s reach across the country, eventually spreading into Ghana and seven other African countries. That influence would be spread even further as Wigwe led the bank to become one of the country’s first financial institutions to actively embrace the integration of technology into their banking practices.
With the problem of ease of access addressed, it was relatively simple for Herbert to tackle the other challenge faced by the creative industry. Convincing patrons to show their enthusiasm for creative work is hard enough with the constraints and frustrations of bureaucracy. It was important that the process was simplified in ways that kept the creator happy and the process simple for the customer. From the Access Bank apps to other alternative banking channels, all the barriers to painless transactions have been removed.
The bank chief is widely known as a lover of arts, which is why he is so involved in the creative projects that Access Bank supports and sponsors, like the Ake Book and Arts Festival; the continent’s premier book festival; the Art X art fair, known as West Africa’s most prestigious art fair; and the African International Film Festival-West Africa’s most prestigious film festival. With an eye for winning initiatives, Access Bank lends support both in technical, business terms and financial grants which allow these oases of creative effort thrive. Access Bank has also supported the Lagos City Marathon in partnership with the Lagos State Government. This is a complex project with several creators in the visual arts, architecture, printing, design and entertainment fields working together to make each edition, bigger and better than the last.
Herbert’s commitment to the creative arts goes beyond blanket support for creative events. He has supported the work of several prominent Nigerian visual artists, commissioning murals, paintings and mosaics that sit proudly within its banking halls, and an enviable archive of art from Nigerian legends that are near inestimable in value. By collecting and preserving this art, the promoter is contributing to creative legacies in ways that will appreciate in the future.
The Born in Africa Festival aligns with one of Herbert Wigwe’s philosophies – a festival that takes all his experience as a mentor and collaborator to creators and his drive to create an industry that not only supports talent, but creates platforms that allow these talents shine. The Born in Africa Festival is another opportunity to redefine the industry’s standards of excellence and ask all the other banks if they are giving their best.