By Seun Bisuga
Prior to the meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, most of the representatives from Hollywood’s leading movie and entertainment companies like Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Lions Gate, IMAX Entertainment, Warner Bros, Walt Disney, BET International and even the National Association of Theater Owners knew Nigeria for many other reasons especially for stories of terrorism particularly that of the Chibok Girls which former First Lady Michelle Obama was actively involved.
Listening to Prof Osinbajo reel out investment opportunities and business potentials available in Nigeria was surreal. For people who are responsible for some of the biggest box office and who have worked with the biggest actors and actresses, Professor Osinbajo was putting up a show. He explained that creativity and talent abound in Nigeria and “we are open for business”.
Their face lit up when they heard about Nollywood and how Nigerian home videos and actors have a far-reaching audience globally including the US. They couldn’t hide the amazement on their faces and even had to blink their eyes to be sure Osinbajo was not auditioning for a movie role, he was holding them spell bound as he changed the Nigeria narrative, something akin to a fairy tale.
In one day, all they had known about Nigeria changed and the possibility of big investment began to play in their heads. You could tell some of them had already called for board meetings in their minds and were arranging trips to Nigeria. Without having to patronize them, Prof Osinbajo had marketed the true picture of Nigeria and the potential that Nollywood and Hollywood can work together to produce the next big thing.
But Osinbajo was more action than talk. It was not a political rendezvous but a marketing spectacle one that can be measured back in Nigeria and in the United States. At the Waldorf Astoria, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, he dropped a sales pitch that resonated across the room. “We understand how dynamic the environment is, both technology and creative arts. But we think that the way to go will be to work with those who are in the industry, those like yourselves who are putting in their money, their resources, time, and energy into this, and trying to do our regulations in such a way that we are competitive practically with anyone else in the world.”
Osinbajo was not done yet, he had more aces up his sleeves and all of it pointed in one direction, investment for Nigeria and in Nigeria. “So what we have done so far is that we’ve been looking at what the specific issues are, and there are quite a few. There are those who want to know about what we are doing in terms of Intellectual Property Protection, investment guarantee, and all of that.
“But I think that the most important thing really, is that we have a government and a lot of those who work in our agencies, who are determined to work through this, day by day, piece by piece to make sure that we get our environment right, and we get the right type of investment environment.”
With assurance of Intellectual Property Protection and investment guarantee, investors know they have a haven in their hands and its one they have anxiously said they will be involved with for many years to come.
The magic wand of the Vice President in the United States began a day earlier when he met with leaders of the Silicon Valley starting with Google CEO Sundar Pichai. First he had a tour of Google headquarters – Googleplex – before again doing what he knows how to do best, pitch Nigeria to Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
Oh my, was Pichai impressed? Yes, he was. For someone who rarely takes to social media especially Twitter, Pichai tweeted about his meeting with Prof Osinbajo. “Happy to welcome the Vice President of Nigeria @ProfOsinbajo to the Googleplex today – great to chat with him about the opportunities of Nigeria’s digital economy,” he wrote. That tweet was on 9 July, he has not tweeted till date – 13 July.
Reinventing Nigeria is Prof Osinbajo’s three square meal and he served it hot to more investors and leaders of the Silicon Valley. His next meeting with LinkedIn co-founder, Allen Blue said more about his ambitions for Nigeria on the African continent.
Themed ‘Investing in African Talent’ Osinbajo outlined the plans of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government and how it is heavily divesting following many years of reliance on oil. He also explained that technology and its know-how is the future and Nigeria has a staggering population waiting to benefit from the industry.
Preparing for the future and not the present, he explained that the Technology and Creativity Advisory Group was designed and established to drive policy in tech innovation and entertainment. “By 2050, Nigeria will have third largest population in the world. We understand that we have to explore ways of delivering education outside of conventional classrooms.”
The Vice President also met top US investors including Tim Kendall, a US investor who worked with Facebook monetization and has led Pinterest, headquartered in San Francisco and valued at about $12 billion.
Others investors who attended Nigeria’s investment summit in Silicon Valley included representatives of StreetEdge Capital, aBay Area, California multi-billion dollar family partnership with global footprints including holdings in the US, India and Africa.
There were others including Chika Nwobi and Tom Terbell, partners from Rise Capital, “a private equity firm specializing in early venture and later stage investments. If you’re a Nigerian seeking this kind of investment better get in touch, the big break is here. They seek to invest in the internet enabled sector in emerging markets.
But nobody knows Nigeria like Nigerians and no one does Nigeria like Nigerians. Prof Osinbajo having met with the biggest investors in this world, it was time to give the ‘expo’ to Nigerians who are in the sectors.
Nigerian delegation renowned in the film, music and entertainment industry, including Innocent Idibia, popularly known as Tuface; New York-based Nigerian visual artist, musician, singer/songwriter, Laolu Senbanjo; CEO, Ebony Life TV, Mo Abudu, Chocolate City CEO, Audu Maikori; founder/CEO Terra Kulture, Bolanle Austen-Peters; New York artist, Sesan Ogunro among others.
But all this was only part one of a never-ending series. Osinbajo will be back for more and Nigeria will enjoy more.
Seun Bisuga is a journalist, and writes from Lagos