By Seaun 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 negative reasons, especially for stories of terrorism particularly that of the Chibok Girls which former First Lady Michelle Obama was actively involved.
But it was quite a relief to listen to Prof Osinbajo projecting the investment opportunities and business potentials of the country. In fact, he stoutly claimed that “creativity and talent abound in Nigeria and we are open for business”.
For people who are responsible for some of the biggest box office movies and who have worked with the biggest actors and actresses, Professor Osinbajo was putting up a show. 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.
He held them spell-bound as he changed the Nigerian narrative. It was as if he was auditioning for a movie role. They couldn’t hide the amazement on their faces.
In one day, all they had known about Nigeria changed and the possibility of big investment began to play in their heads. You could guess some of them had already called for board meetings in their minds and were arranging trips to Nigeria. Without patronising 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.
Meanwhile, Osinbajo packed 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 investing their money, their resources, time, and energy into this, and trying to do our regulations in such a way that we can compete practically with anyone else in the world.”
“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, investors know they have a haven in their hands.
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 he came to preach Nigeria to Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
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,”. That tweet was on 9 July and he has not tweeted again till date.
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 diversifying 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.