In the fall of 2017, Marvel Studios released the teaser to end all teasers- Black Panther. 24 hours after it went live, it had racked up 89 millions views on YouTube . Immediately, two things became clear: 1) Marvel was not ready for what it would mean to bring an Afro-superhero to the big screen, because 2) Black Panther was going to take the world by storm, then usher in the age of African superheroes. The question then was, would African creatives be ready for what comes next?
At the same time, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the Collective Industries Conventions Africa (CICA), an organization dedicated to the growth of the comic and animation industries in Nigeria, came together to contemplate that very question. 16 companies specializing in graphic arts, comic book publishing, and animation decided it was time to focus on growing a market that had been building itself in the shadows for over a decade.
The objective was to begin with awareness and business development. Together, they would hold an event to get people excited about the universes being built by comic book publishers, and animators, while simultaneously helping creative entrepreneurs navigate the business-side of creativity. This is when BIAYA Consulting, a US-based consulting firm that serves Pan-African creative and cultural industries, was engaged to spearhead an initiative around awareness-building for the animation, comics, and gaming (ACG) industries in Nigeria.
After a year of planning, relationship development, and organization, The United Convention, or UNICON held on November 16 & 17, 2018. The two day program, which included an industry summit, and a creatives expo, successfully introduced the corporate and local communities to the opportunities in the local ACG market.
UNICON Industry Summit
In partnership with the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF), BIAYA hosted the UNICON Business Summit at Genesis Theaters at The Palms for an audience of nearly 100 people. Stakeholders from finance, education, government, Nollywood, and distribution attended the event to learn what the ACG industry had to offer the Nigerian market.
The program kicked off with a presentation by BIAYA Consulting on the state of the global industry. Most impressively, audience members learned that as of 2017, the global ACG industry is worth $349 billion. Not only are these industries incredibly lucrative, they are also some of the fastest growing within, and outside of the creative industry, growing at about 16% y-o-y. It was clear by the end of the presentation that these industries drive growth around the world, and could drive economic development, and job creation in Nigeria as well.
Following the global presentation, a panel of CICA members assembled for a discussion on the local industry. Peter Daniels of PedaStudio, Ibrahim ‘Sirgai’ Ganiyu of ICStudios, Jide Olusanya of Quartermax Media, and Kolawale Olarewaju of Komotion Studios, shared insights on trends as well as challenges they faced doing business in Lagos Nigeria.
The first topic of discussion exposed a major pain point of the industry: distribution. Distribution is such a major value chain failure that ACG professionals identify it as a primary reason profits cannot be fully maximized. Coming off a conversation about profits, the industry professionals shared that they have seen a recent increase in corporate partnerships. More and more companies, like Cold Stone Creamery, and Maple Leaf paper products, look to ACG professionals to craft characters to bolster local brand recognition and ultimately increase revenue generation. Of course the key to these partnerships was the practitioner’s ability to control and manage rights associated to any particular character developed for corporate partnership. These points led to a discussion on how creatives look to the legal community to assist with intellectual property protection, which allows them to maximize earnings on their creative works.
The state of intellectual property rights and management was a transition point to the next presentation by Isioma Idigbe of PUNUKA Attorneys and Solicitors. Ms Idibge began by highlighting the ways in which the legal sector can be leveraged to support industry growth. While many believe there are no laws in Nigeria that protect intellectual property, Ms. Idibge made it clear that there are several laws in place, but the primary challenge is law enforcement. She also shared that outside of enforcement, there are activities that associations can undertake to drive regulation and legislation on a governmental level that can accelerate industry growth.
The evening closed with a panel of stakeholders, including representatives from of the US Mission to Nigeria, Comic Republic, Bank of Industry, Pan-Atlantic University and, RedTV. This particular conversation was a fascinating roundtable which allowed Comic Republic to stand as a representative of the ACG industries and pose questions to the various stakeholders. The objective was to bring to light the challenges ACG entrepreneurs face in working with stakeholders at various points along the value chain. Once challenges were exposed, the stakeholders provided some the context on how they generally engage the creative sector, and how those dynamics can begin to shift to further support creative entrepreneurs.
The following day, the UNICON Convention and Expo was held at Lagos Law School from 10am to 7:00pm. The event was an immersive, and interactive day filled with various activities, panels, competitions, and giveaways. Nearly 700 people, including industry professionals, families, teens, and young adults came from far and wide to attend the inaugural event. Some attendees came from as far as Abuja and Port Harcourt.
A featured interactive space was an art wall at the entrance of that hall where attendees drew their favorite superheroes and characters. Several members of the CICA put their creativity on display by drawing various characters into the backdrop while onlookers watched enraptured.
Inside the hall, an exciting gaming tournament curated by GameEvo had participants shouting every few minutes as competitors tried to out wit one another. On display nearby was a reel of animated content for those who wanted to see what the animated community was all about. Much of the floor was covered with exhibitors selling comic books, or comic-related gear. Nearly twenty companies had their products on display for fans to purchase.
While all the excitement was going on, there were several panels exploring various elements of the ACG market for audience members. Conversations touched on how to tell African stories, the state of the animation industry in Nigeria, the business side of creative entrepreneurship, and how talent and capacity building impact the ACG industries.
Prizes included a WACOM tablet, Samsung phone, and cash prizes for both the costume play competition and the gaming tournament. The event closed with a final vote of thanks to all attendees, and a promise to return for UNICON 2019.
Overall, both events were a major success. Furthermore, in a country where comic conventions have existed for several years, UNICON was a new opportunity for ACG companies to come together not only to make money, but to plan the for the future of the industry. If creative entrepreneurship is to be a true profession, then there is still a lot of work ahead. UNICON showed that these creative professionals are committed to taking on that challenge.
Although Black Panther has come and gone, ACG is here to stay. CICA and BIAYA Consulting look forward to the ways in which these industries will chart new paths for generations of Nigerian creatives dedicated to telling their authentic stories. When you ask if Africa is ready, this was Nigeria’s response.
Join us next year for UNICON 2019. Stay tuned.
BIAYA Consulting is excited to continue engagements in the Pan-African creative and cultural industries and deepen its relationships with CICA and other local stakeholders through other initiatives within the 5 pillars of growth. For inquiries on how to engage with the Nigerian ACG industry, UNICON, or other BIAYA initiatives, please contact BIAYA Consulting at email@example.com.
CICA is the Collective Industry Conventions Africa Limited, a Lagos based association of creative publishing houses, digital production companies, illustrators, designers, and animators. The mission of CICA is to promote and support the growth of the Nigerian creative industry.