Law firm tasks CBN on CIFI, seeks funding for Photographers, Dancers other artists

Banwo & Ighodalo , a leading law firm, has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) to include Photographers, Artists, Dancer etc. into the Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI); as it seeks for wider coverage for the sector.

The firm observed that whilst the aims and objectives of the CIFI are laudable, it considers that certain challenges remain in the modalities for operationalizing the scheme.

The firm believes that the eligible activities included in the current CIFI framework limit scope of creative sector.

As a result, the legal firm expresses dissatisfaction with the exclusion of others which it considers as important part of the segment that the apex bank seeks to support.

Banwo & Ighodalo proposed that the eligible sectors of the creative industry be expanded beyond the listed four or, in the alternative, the initiative be made to cover all economically viable activities within the creative industry.

The firm considered that the listed eligible activities in the focal sub-sectors do not cover all the segments of the creative industry.

CIFI is targeted at Fashion, IT/Software Development, Movies and Music.

The law firm said this leaves the fate of other “Creatives”, whose businesses, talents and skills are outside the listed four areas -Fashion, IT/Software Development, Movie and Music- hanging.

“By excluding some “Creatives” from the CIFI, the government and other corporate sponsors have continuously undermined the potential of these sectors to engender cultural, social and economic transformation of the Nigerian nation”, it stated.

The firm recalled that as part of efforts to boost job creation among Nigerian youths, the CBN, in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, established the CIFI in May 2019.

“At any rate, the development and rise of youths-centered entrepreneurial skills remain, at this critical time, a low-hanging fruit for Nigeria”, it said.

“Policies capable of driving the growth of intellectual property and spurring the establishment of an enabling environment for the advancement of the media, entertainment and technology industries – sectors most appealing to young people – are generally canvassed as a necessary vehicle for transiting from a consumption based and crude-oil dependent economy to a production based and competitive knowledge-economy”.

“In this connection, the establishment of the CIFI and release of its implementation framework could provide the much needed incentives, for maximally unlocking the potential of the country’s bourgeoning youthful population and harnessing same for the targeted growth in the Nigerian creative industry”, the legal firm reckoned.

The law firm believes that it is necessary that the identified challenges highlighted be holistically addressed in order to position the initiative for maximum success.

Banwo & Ighodalo think that the CIFI implementation framework suffers from lack of certainty and uniformity of documentation requirements for loan applications.

“This is, perhaps, the most glaring factor which may pose problems to the smooth operation of the scheme”, the legal firm stated.

According to the firm, the wide latitude granted to each of the PFIs to determine what documents/information to be required from a loan applicant, leaves too much to the discretion of the banks and may throw up transparency issues in the selection process.

Banwo & Ighodalo said the CBN’s framework ought to have prescribed a uniform and industry-wide documentation requirement to ensure a seamless regime.

“For example, performing artists particularly dance artists, musicians, and theatre practitioners have been very instrumental to our cultural renaissance and are strategic to the success of the other sectors within the industry.

“They contribute in no small measure to the growth of the advertising industry through television commercials and are central to the movie industry, with many dance “Creatives” working for private organizations while others work/consult for governmental institutions like the Councils for Arts and Culture”, the firm reckoned.

Similarly, the law firm said the visual arts do not only provide critical means of artistic expression but also enhance innovation and present viable opportunities for creating and owning intellectual property rights.

In other words, visual artists create wealth capable of spurring both individual and national development and surviving through generations, the legal firm added.

The law practice think whilst skills such as photography and interior décor/design have become major occupations for many, others such as industrial/graphic design, ceramics, print-making and drawing form an important element in certain industries.

It said collectively, performing and visual arts effectively project a good image of the country abroad, create jobs for millions of people (especially youths), generate wealth and are capable of attracting foreign direct investment through exhibition at annual international festivals, workshops, and multi-cultural performances.

“Thus, because of the identified huge potential of the excluded sub-sectors, we are of the opinion that a minimum threshold for measuring viability of projects across the entire creative industry be introduced, such that any “Creative”, in any segment of the industry whatsoever, can benefit from the CIFI where the prescribed minimum threshold is met”, the legal firm advised.

It is also noted that the CIFI framework does not provide any timelines for the implementation of the scheme. In other words, there are no stated checks in place to ensure efficiency of the funding process.

“We believe the CIFI should not be left without a proper review mechanism, so as to prevent it from going the way of similar initiatives in the past; which only appeared on paper and made waves as news headlines, without achieving much in terms of beneficiaries and outputs”, Banwo & Ighodalo highlighted.

The CIFI is to be funded from the Agri-Business Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS), operated by the Bankers’ Committee, with a seed fund of N22.9 billion.

The initiative was developed to improve access to long-term, low-cost and sustainable financing for entrepreneurs and investors in the creative and information technology sub-sectors of the Nigerian economy

It is envisioned to complement other development finance schemes of the CBN, to accelerate financial inclusion in the country and harness entrepreneurial potential of the youth in the target sectors, ultimately for economic development.

On July 1, 2019, the CBN took further step towards concretizing the CIFI by releasing a framework for its implementation.

Law firm tasks CBN on CIFI, seeks funding for Photographers, Dancers other artists