The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Nigeria held its first in a series of development conversations with the Nigerian creatives dubbed #CreateToDevelop. This is part of the recently launched UNDP Nigeria Development Dialogue series aimed at creating platforms for conversations to constructively inform Nigeria’s development agenda.

The #CreateToDevelop dialogue brought together a representation of veterans and young creatives across the sector including Sola Sobowale, Ajoke Silva, Alibaba Akpobome, Don Jazzy, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Toke Makinwa, Dakore Akande, Mercy Johnson, Chioma Akpotha, Adebola Williams, Yagazie ‘Gazmadu’ Eguare, Stephanie Busari, Hadiza Nyako Tukur, Edwin Okolo and the award-winning filmmaker, Joel Kachi-Benson.

Nigeria is a notable contributor to the African arts, culture and entertainment scene. Its entertainment and music industry that emerged in the early ‘90s is the fastest growing in the world, competing closely with America and India for the global market share. The Nigeria film industry (Nollywood) employs more than 1 million people – making it the second largest employer after agriculture. In 2016, the Nigeria film industry contributed 2.3% (NGN239billion) to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and is considered a priority sector in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan of the Federal Government with expected export revenue of $1billion by 2020.

Expounding on the role of creatives in social reforms and behavioral change, Mohamed Yahya, the UNDP Resident Representative to Nigeria, noted that Nigeria’s creative sector has over the years played a critical role in influencing the growth of Africa’s arts and culture. With 10 years left to achieving the development goals, the start of the #DecadeOfAction is timely for UNDP to listen and learn from creatives on how they can use their influence to support the country’s development progress and shift perceptions of Nigeria among Nigerians and the rest of the world.

From Left -Don Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Don Jazzy and Toke Makinwa

Mr Yahya explained that, “while policies are crucial for reforms and development in any country, it is only by amplifying the psychology of progress through creative story-telling in every form that we can aspire to becoming a generation that believes in themselves to do better.”

Dakore Akande, Ajoke Silva and Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, actresses who have all had extensive experience working with various international organisations, offered useful insights on how the UNDP can rise above political bureaucracies in harnessing Nigeria’s vibrant and diverse creative potential towards the attainment of the SDGs.

Creative arts transcend all barriers; gender, age, political, social, economic, geographical and religion, and presents a new frontier that can leapfrog Nigeria’s development trajectory. Over the next few months, UNDP has committed to co-creation of initiatives that will aid the Nigerian creative industry to establish avenues that can leverage better the art of telling representative stories, while supporting monetization of the industry for sustainability.

“The biggest challenge working with development organisations is the ability to stay on an issue or a cause long enough to establish impact. It is our hope that whatever areas/stories UNDP commits to will be consistent for longer term engagement in order to ensure success and ability to measure impact of the causes the organisation chooses to support,” said Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, a renowned actress and activist.