The past 30 years have seen the creative arts industry grow beyond entertainment, to a power house sector that has created nearly 30 million jobs worldwide and employs more people aged 15−29 than any other sector, according to a UNESCO report.

In Africa, the industry is equally growing, in fact according to PWC Nigeria’s film industry could become the country’s greatest export, in the world. No wonder, In 2021, Nollywood contributed $660 million to Nigeria’s national GDP. And it’s not just in Nigeria across Africa, the economic potential of film and art is huge and untapped – and is expected to generate $20 billion dollars according to UNESCO.

There’s no doubt that this progress in Africa, is attracting global players and interest in the industry.

Unik Ernest has been part of the organizing teams at the Sundance and Cannes Lions for over a decade, he recently organized the Cannes Lions pop up show that brought together leading creatives from all around the world for an exchange of ideas and practices on how to tap into the arts space.

I spoke to him about how Africa can harness the potential currently present for its creative space.

Pauline KamiriWhen we talk about film festivals and celebration of culture, so much goes into it. So could you talk to us about the recent popup you organized at the Cannes Lions ?

Unik Ernest: Yes. So each and every end of June the Cannes Lions happens. Many folks in the creative space from media to creative advertisers conglomerate come into French Riviera to celebrate film and every bit of the global creative spaces.  So this year I hosted Nas, PostMalone, in my popup which was in a bid to create a platform for the talents and creatives to go to after the main events.

Pauline Kamiri: In moments like this, of celebrating music, film and culture where do you see the African continent fitting in?

Unik Ernest: Africa is jumping in so fast however it is still underrepresented. Different cultures were represented at Cannes Lions but the African continent was still lacking with only but a few individuals present. The creative industry and African brands, need to invest in Africans. Africans need to support each other whilst having Sound leadership at the helm. Companies like Safaricom, MTN could start putting money into the creative space which will really help the young creative of the continent so they can start creating great content which could later turn into great commercials that can go and compete internationally. Young people of Africa have to do they have to put themselves out for more recognition and sponsorship deals that are present

Pauline Kamiri: So do you think there’s a bright future for Africa’s Creative Industries?

Unik Ernest: Africa has such a bright future for its creative industry, I mean its youthful population is 70% and this to me means a very bright future. Again, if you channel it, in the right ways , you know, you succeed tremendously.  With the current growth of technology and even more penetration of the internet, Africa is better placed to succeed even more than it is currently. Platforms like YouTube create not only a space for learning and research but also creates a platform for them to sell their art to the globe.

Pauline Kamiri: There a lot of misconceptions and untruths around Africa’s art and culture, as it’s still not considered as a viable business. What are your thoughts?

Unik Ernest: It all boils down to embracing the culture and diversity more. Right from the leadership to those at the grassroots levels. There is so much authenticity in the African culture but African nations and its people need to appreciate it and practice it more. More like buy Africa build Africa. Africans should start valuing their talents, culture and diversity more.

Pauline Kamiri: As we conclude, in 4 words, describe the future of Africa’s creative arts.

Unik Ernest: Start embracing your culture. If you’re not embracing what’s yours, you will never be able to develop. You’re always going to have to take approval from the outside to love what you have which never ends well.

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