Buhari’s Ministers of Information, Communication must do more than talk about the media

As Nigeria turns over a new leaf with its newly appointed president and cabinet, media should play a central role in the transformation of the country in the same way it plays a central role in the election of new leaders –not only in Nigeria but globally. The Nigerian media space has what it takes to contribute meaningfully to the Nigerian economy – numbers, scalability and potential. A strategic and supportive partnership between Ministers Lai Mohammed (Information) and Adebayo Shittu (Communication) and media experts in the country will help create a market atmosphere where media can thrive.

Buhari’s plans to diversify the economy are most welcome, and all aspects of media, especially digital migration and data provision, will be critical to these efforts. The government would do well to set up a task force of experts who can advise on how the media space can be leveraged and on what partners and investments will be key to make this leverage point lucrative for the country. The following steps will be vital.

First , the government should prioritize partnership with private companies and investors in making broadband accessible to more Nigerians. The size of the market and the diversity of what such access would mean for inclusivity and business development make this an extremely strategic space to home in on. Nigeria, like most African countries, is significantly behind when it comes to delivering fast, reliable and cheap data to its populace. Yet data is central to increasing possibilities for an emerging economy like ours. The benefits are exponential especially as the Nigerian population is largely made up of youth under the age of 30, who we now know live and consume the internet at exponential rates. A population that has access to information is more creative, innovative and keeps pace with global trends which is absolutely critical in a global economy. Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind.

Secondly, the new government needs to help us by weeding out corruption in the media industry. Buhari’s focus on reducing corruption generally will assist media in addressing the twin constraints currently plaguing the space: too many patronage players with too little measurement driving media investment decisions.

Nigeria’s media industry makes up less than 1 percent of the country’s GDP and yet is saturated with multiple players all fighting for a slice of the pie. This creates what Michael Wolf called a ‘glut of product’ that is often not to the quality that Nigerian and African viewers deserve. Yet many undeserving players continue to survive because they have relationships with media buyers who favour them instead of the players who actually have better content and industry know-how. By regulating the industry and making sure that audience, listenership and readership, measurements are more accurate we create a market in which those who are really invested in excellent content and production are rewarded.

The entire ecosystem would benefit from this. We would have created a space that encourages superior products in all spaces be it journalism or movie production. This attracts more committed audiences and increases advertising revenues. The ripple effect would make the industry more viable and would contribute significantly towards the country’s GDP — all this while telling the African story in a way that can be easily exportable internatonally.

If Buhari’s promise of assigning the right people to the right portfolios holds true, then Nigeria can prepare itself for increased internet connectivity and a much better regulated, better measured, and therefore more lucrative media industry. We the media players are ready for such a move!

This piece was produced by Ventures Africa in partnership with The Africa Expert Network (AXN) to provide unique insider commentary from practitioners and subject matter specialists.

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