By Michael Orodare
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2017 announced that Nigeria’s creative industry accounted for 2.3 percent, approximately N239 billion, of the nation’s GDP in 2016. This has been re-echoed by Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed at the 61st Tourism conference in Abuja 2019 and the then Minister of State – Industry Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar.
Abubakar, while speaking at a Creative Entrepreneurs Summit in 2019, declared that with the pace the Nigeria creative Industry is growing it has the fastest growth rate in the world. We cannot talk about this exponential growth without pointing to the role the Big Brother Naija show is playing, arguably, the biggest television reality show out of Nigeria and Africa right now.
With rising unemployment and a stuttering economy, the creative industry, which forms a major part of the nation’s informal sector, has continued to come to the rescue of Nigerians, putting foods on tables, promoting people from obscurity to stardom and helping many achieve their dreams.
With the dwindling fortune of white collar jobs, Nigeria’s informal sector accounted for about 65 percent of Nigeria’s 2017 GDP, according to the IMF which also rated Nollywood as the second-biggest employer in Nigeria, engaging over a million persons. It’s evident that over the years millions of Nigerians have been devising ways to help themselves survive through economic hardship without waiting for the government.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened the situation. Across the world, the fear of mass layoff (already happening) coupled with a possible economic recession predicted by experts is shifting focus to the informal sector and the creative industry is expected to be the receiving port for the influx of many young people in search of greener pasture and economic liberation.
Small wonder why millions of youth and brands jostle to associate with the BBNaija show annually. It is well established from previous editions that has produced stars in movie, music and media, that the show is a major contributor to the growth of the creative industry of the most populous black nation in the world.
But how is MultiChoice Nigeria achieving this?
It may look like a mystery, but the show is beyond the 12 people and the host Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, himself a past contestant, we see on the screen for 99 days. There is more to the show than the contestants – the crew members, brands, small and medium sized businesses, online vendors and entertainers who visit the house are also huge beneficiaries of the BBNaija show.
At the backstage making the work happen are more than 100 crew members – cameramen, photographers, housekeepers and many others in their hundreds who get paid for making the reality show a true reality.
Ebuka shared a photo in 2019 of about 100 crew members (directly hired) to work behind the scenes to bring the show to viewers. The multiplying effect of this on the economy of a nation cannot be underestimated.
The show made a remarkable move last year when it gave out a Nigerian made car to Mercy Eke, winner of the 2019 edition. This move earned MultiChoice commendation from many Nigerians and it has further promoted the Innoson made vehicle to other parts of Africa.
Before BBNaija 2019, not so many people knew about a smartphone brand called Oppo, it gained exposure that has translated to an increase in patronage and revenue by joining other brands like Bet9ja, Pepsi, Gulder to sponsor weekly games on the show.
The small and medium sized business owners who are contracted as vendors to supply necessities like food, wearables, cosmetics, toiletries to the house during the show have also seen an exponential growth in their businesses by associating with the show. Many of these businesses run online shops, by exposing their brands on the show to over 40 million viewers across Africa, their hitherto small businesses have received a higher degree of patronage from Nigeria and other African countries.
In October 2019, House of Lunettes, a brand that makes eyeglasses announced that it sold out its products a few hours after Tacha Akhide became its brand ambassador. Such is the power BBNaija wields.
Entertainers and DJs who visit the housemates have also enjoyed a high degree of publicity that has further positioned their brands to the consciousness of not just Nigerians, but millions of Africans.
We may not be able to put a figure to the huge impact of BBNaija on the nation’s economy, it is clear that solving the economy puzzle remains a daunting prospect, which the show alone cannot solve, but it is making a giant step in proffering a solution.
Lai Mohammed said in 2019 that “Our (Nigeria’s) greatest strength lies in our creative industry, music and our films. That is one area we have a comparative advantage over many other countries.”
Over the years, MultiChoice through BBNaija has continued to churn out talent taking over the creative scene – Gideon Okeke, Bisola Aiyeola, Ifu Ennada among many other past contestants have made names in Nollywood. Efe Ejeba winner of the 2017 edition went to pursue a career in music and Miracle Igbokwe through his cash prize in the 2018 edition was able to achieve his long term dream of becoming a pilot, though he didn’t stay in the creative industry like other contestants, BBNaija has helped him fulfil his dream, what more can he ask for?
The likes of Tobi Bakre who has featured in movies and soap operas, Mike Edwards a brand ambassador for Nigeria family of Japanese automotive manufacturers, Mitsubishi; and many others are also making good use of the fame the platform brought to register their names in the creative scene.
Over the years, people have expressed cynical opinions about the show, it is not unexpected, what, in fact cannot be ruled out is that viewers have a real emotional attachment to it, contestants, businesses and individuals attached to it are seeing the impact on their bank statements and their brands.
With the dearth of talent harvesting shows and many other reality TV shows that the harsh economy has frustrated to wind up, commendation must be given to MultiChoice Nigeria for weathering the storm and providing a way out of the conundrum to make BBNaija a major contributor to the growth of the creative industry.