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Nigeria is set to amend the legislation establishing the National Endowment for the Arts, to strengthen the industry.

An official said this will ameliorate the negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the creative industry.

The National Endowment for the Arts Act was established in 1991 to support creativity and creatives for the promotion of cultural heritage and knowledge in Nigeria.

Addressing a virtual forum of the African Union (AU) ministers of arts, culture, and heritage on the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the creative sector, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, made the disclosure on Wednesday.

The virtual forum organised by the AU Commission for Social Affairs was chaired by Mr Mohammed.

“We have decided to amend the Act establishing the National Endowment for the Arts so it can better meet the demands of the sector, which has been greatly impacted by the pandemic,” he said.

According to a statement by his spokesperson, Segun Adéyemí, the minister said the move is to support every medium and area of creative activity in the art, culture and heritage sector as well as to foster professional excellence in the sector in the age of pandemic.

He said the government would work with the National Assembly for early amendment of the Act to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the sector.

Since the global public health crisis hit Nigeria in February, businesses around culture and creative production have been the worst.

Cinemas, pubs, social gathering outlets have been forced to close or comply with the physical distancing guidelines in a bid to contain the pandemic.

The minister said with social distancing, ban on mass gathering, and travel restrictions globally, the sector has become the worst hit because the entire industry is audience-centred.

He said in Nigeria, the impact has been particularly devastating due to the importance and the relevance of the sector to the national economy.

“The Nigerian creative industry is large, diverse, dynamic and critical for economic growth, development and diversification,” he said. “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 three per cent to the nation’s GDP,” he said.

He said in the wake of the pandemic, the Central Bank of Nigeria also set aside N50 billion for smallholder businesses and the creative industry.

“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,” he said.

Tackling challenges

To address the challenges, Mr Mohammed said the government set up a 22-member stakeholders committee to come up with “immediate, short and long term economic stimulus and initiatives for the industry”.

Earlier this year, the minister announced the establishment of the Endowment Fund for the Arts to create a legal framework for the financing of the sector.

He said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had set aside N50 billion for small-holder businesses and the creative industry to support the industry in the post COVID-19 era

Mr Mohammed stressed the need for the African ministers to give the industry a shot in the arm during and after the pandemic.

He said the forum afforded the opportunity to provide an all-inclusive inter-disciplinary bond that places premium on culture as a sine qua non for all developmental initiatives in Africa.

Also, the AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, Amira Elfadil, reportedly underscored the need for collaborative efforts in fighting the common enemy, COVID-19.

She conveyed the greetings of the president of the AU and South Africa President, Cyril Ramaphosa, to the forum.

The forum had presentations from the Director of Africa Centre for Disease Control, John Nkengasong and the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank), Benedict Oramah

About 20 Ministers from different African countries made contributions at the virtual forum.

The countries include: Algeria, Gambia, Cameroon, South Africa, Mali, Tunisia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania.

Others are Uganda, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Zambia, Togo, Djibouti and. Saharawi Republic.

Coronavirus factsheet

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