DIGITAL SWITCH OVER CAN CREATE A MILLION JOBS IN 3 YEARS – ‘TOYIN SUBAIR

I am sitting far away in the U.K, watching over my internet and on my laptop, the post Federal Executive Council of Nigeria of Wednesday 10th August press conference. The Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed is both informing the media of and defending the deliberations of the council of that day on the Digitization of Television in Nigeria. He is being asked why considering the state of things in Nigeria and the economy; the council spent the day’s meeting attending to only that issue.

I am screaming in my mind ‘finally’ and wondering why it has taken the government so long. Unknown to the reporter who asked the question, the council has just deliberated on one of the few issues that can save Nigeria and its economy in the wake of falling oil prices and an urgent need for diversification of the economy. It was sweet music to my ears because until that meeting, the creative industries had not featured in any of the identified sectors or industries by all the economic panels, reviews, retreats, discussions, agendas of the government.

By creative industries, I mean Television, Music, Film, Production, Advertising, Arts and advertising. How could they have missed these industries which have turned the fortunes of California, Mumbai, Turkey, Brazil, Dubai, Australia etc and made them economic giants.

Our Nollywood, with little or no strategic government investment or plan is one of the 3 largest film industries in the world, our music is fast becoming the most travelled music anywhere in the world and our TV market with little or no formal production ecosystem is the largest on the continent and all the above in a country with over 180 million people, 24 million TV households and the fastest growing mobile data penetration on the African continent. Do not mention that at the last election, over 50% of the electorate was between ages of 18 and 35. The dream target market for media products!

I believe in the statement that wealth is created where there is energy, therefore welcome to Nigeria. The Digitization of television in Nigeria can create and fine tune at least 1 million jobs within 3 years and I will explain why in brief, taking a cue from the Honourable Minister.

MANUFACTURING – Digitization requires all homes to have a Set top Box or Smart TV. Connectivity to the internet may also be by a 3g dongle attached to the boxes. When we talk about 24 million boxes/tvs, not even 20 manufacturers can comfortably produce the initial requirement and feed the growth market. Furthermore, our position in West Africa coupled with our size makes us the definite source of these products for the whole West Africa. 40 – 50 thousand jobs?

TV PRODUCTION – Digitization will make it possible to have at least 180 state channels, 30 regional channels and at least 10 National channels, catering for local music, news, film, children programming and sports. It will create better competition because you can measure which programs people are watching so that value is rewarded thus transforming our TV channels from being airtime sales companies to production hubs to get good ratings. 200 thousand jobs?

FILM PRODUCTION – As Nollywood moved from VHS tapes to VCD and DVD, it will move to Push and Subscription Video On Demand on the STB and online, bringing piracy to the lowest ever and making distribution cheaper and easier and putting much more money into the hands of film producers who will create more films of better quality and ultimately surpassing 2000 movies a year. Writers, lightning, sound, camera, location, editing, actresses, actors, insurance costume etc professionals will blow up. 350 – 400 thousand jobs.

DISTRIBUTION – To supply the market with STB’s, TV’s, dongles, internet required, we will need wholesalers, retailers, electricians, installers, payment solutions in order to cover the most hinterlands of our great country. Non- graduates and graduates with all sorts of sales and marketing skills. 100 thousand jobs.

TV AND ONLINE ADVERTISING – The concept of advertising will become more local than national because you can target customers at the bottom of the income bracket with products specific to their needs and location and of course FMCG’s will have more forensic proof of their customers and what they watch and where they are. This is the story of new commerce all over the world and the elevation of the customer as king. 50 thousand jobs?

DATA – the problem with internet to every home or what is called the last mile will be finally solved. The Set top Box in every home will deliver internet and consequently access and commerce to every home. Apps will be created to offer goods and services and for interaction and entertainment at every level. And most importantly, the spectrum that is freed up by digitization will become much more monetizable by the mobile/data companies and therefore more valuable to government. 200 thousand technology jobs by internet entrepreneurs.

I have not touched on education and training for the industry, financing its various facets via venture capital and direct infrastructural requirement and equipment and management and/or consulting services. How about the foreign exchange earnings from selling and distributing our Films, Music and TV shows all over the world and the foreign direct investments into the country by companies looking for a slice of the last frontier? The boost to the advertising industry that will finally bring it to the level that our GDP dictates. This government can truly create 1 million jobs in 3 years from the Digital Switch Over project and this is a challenge to all of us.

I celebrate with President Buhari and his team for their declared commitment, and big prayers for the Ministers and directorates that will execute it and of course the business sectors that will work out the functioning of the whole industry. It is the turn of Nigerians.

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