November 30, 2023

The animation industry in Nigeria has seen significant growth over the past decade. However, despite this progress, the sector operates below its full potential and is yet to garner mainstream recognition in the country. Numerous challenges hinder its widespread acceptance and impact, including inadequate training opportunities, a lack of dedicated funding, insufficient strategic collaboration among practitioners, minimal government support, brain drain, and the high cost of entry into the industry. These issues were discussed extensively during a session of the Filmmakers’ Forum hosted by the Nollywood Studies Centre at the School of Media and Communication at Pan-Atlantic University.

Speaking at the forum were prominent figures in the animation industry, including Ayodele Elegba, CEO of Spoof Animation Studio; Muyiwa Kayode, CEO of USP Brand Management and Executive Producer of “Turtle Taido”; and David Victorious, Head of Growth and Marketing at Magic Carpet Studio, representing Ferdinand Adimefe, the CEO of Magic Carpet Studio.

Highlighting the intricate challenges within the animation sector in Nigeria, especially focusing on the educational and employment aspects, David Victorious highlighted the persistent shortage of skilled professionals, hindering studios’ capacity to take on larger projects.

He further explained that training individuals for the animation industry poses significant challenges, emphasizing the financial barriers faced by potential animators. Learning the craft is both time-consuming and expensive, with some international schools charging up to $6,000 for a six-month course. He also shed light on additional challenges, including a lack of awareness about the rigors of animation and the high cost of essential tools such as premium software and high-grade laptops.

Highlighting the dynamic realm of animation education, Muyiwa Kayode brought attention to active strategic endeavors addressing the industry’s manpower and educational challenges. He spotlighted initiatives like the Youth in Animation and Post Production Initiative (YAPPI), a collaborative effort between Del York Academy and the MasterCard Foundation, with the ambitious goal of training 60,000 animators over five years. He expressed his optimism about the industry’s future, foreseeing a time when Nigeria could independently produce significant animation projects, thereby diminishing reliance on outsourcing.

Kayode cited other initiatives such as the Lagos Film City project, emphasizing the importance of investing in educational institutions under the project, particularly universities, to offer structured education that aligns with the demands of this rapidly evolving and technology-driven field.

Ayodele Elegba expressed reservations about the proliferation of animation schools, emphasizing the lack of job opportunities for trained animators in Nigeria. “What’s the use of training individuals when there are insufficient opportunities for them afterward? We’ve trained many skilled animators, but the challenge lies in the lack of job prospects. Consequently, we observe these trained professionals venturing into alternative careers where they can sustain a livelihood.” He stressed the importance of industry-specific training and the need for government accreditation to boost the credibility of animation education and the need for a cohesive structure to determine the content of animation education so that trained individuals can have the required skills in varied specializations to fill available gaps in the country.

Addressing concerns about job scarcity for trained animators, Kayode emphasized the strategic training of individuals to meet specific industry needs and outlined the vast possibilities within the animation value chain, including manufacturing, gaming, film, and entertainment. “The focus should extend beyond limited skill sets; instead, we need to delve into the diverse components of animation. Once trained, individuals should be guided to specialize in specific areas. What aspect do they want to specialize in, and in which industry do they see themselves? Animation skills open doors to various sectors, including manufacturing, the gaming industry, film, and the entertainment industry. The key is positioning oneself strategically within this expansive value chain.” He instructed.

Concerns about brain drain were also raised, pointing to the need for efforts to retain skilled animators within Nigeria as many animators have left the country to seek greener pastures in other countries. David acknowledged the industry’s struggle with retaining talent but highlighted the delicate balance that his company has used to stem this challenge through cultivating a company culture that keeps talent engaged and committed. He described a community-oriented culture that has kept many team members invested in the company’s vision, reducing the temptation to seek opportunities elsewhere. David acknowledged the allure of better prospects abroad but stressed the significance of building a sense of ownership and belonging among team members. He shared how individuals involved in the conceptualization and creation of intellectual properties feel vested in the projects, contributing to a low turnover rate.

The discussion also touched on the role of the government in fostering the development of the animation industry in Nigeria. David pointed out challenges related to intellectual property registration, emphasizing that it often takes an extensive period to register IPs in Nigeria compared to other countries, highlighting an unfortunate perception that certain policies seem designed to hinder rather than facilitate the processes for certain endeavors.

“If you’re developing your intellectual property (IP) in Nigeria and seeking to register it here, the process can take up to three years. In contrast, in other countries, this can be accomplished within a month. Consequently, a significant portion of our IPs had to be registered abroad.” Additionally, David highlighted the government’s lack of recognition of IPs as collateral for loans.

Echoing the sentiment about the government’s perception of animation’s economic significance, Elegba highlighted hurdles in securing international collaborations and proposed accessible loans as a financial lifeline for animators and studios. The potential for job creation in Nigeria’s animation industry was emphasized, aligning with the global animation market’s predicted growth.

Emphasizing the vast opportunities in this field, especially in collaboration with Nollywood and other entertainment sectors, Victorious highlighted opportunities for collaboration with Nollywood and other entertainment sectors, identifying areas experiencing a talent shortage, including experienced producers and directors, concept development expertise, marketing and business skills, quality control, and a growing demand for CGI and VFX artists in Nigeria.