Using Copyright for Development in Nigeria: BBC World Trust

April 2006

Akim Mogaji.  Good copyright protection can help reverse the brain drain.
Akim Mogaji. Good copyright protection can help reverse the brain drain.

Mr. Akim Mogaji, Creative Director for the BBC World Service Trust, Nigeria, was one of a number of industry and civil society representatives to speak on the use of intellectual property (IP) for development, in the margins of the meeting of the Provisional Committee on Proposals related to a Development Agenda for WIPO in February.

The BBC World Service Trust is an international development organization. It helps students in developing countries to create radio and television programs, which aim to improve quality of life through a combination of education and entertainment. For example, Mr. Mogaji directs the hugely popular Nigerian radio series, Story Story, which addresses poverty, governance and HIV/Aids through the soap opera format of the lives of its characters.. The Trust first sought Mr. Mogaji’s services six years ago to help realize a project to raise awareness about human rights in Kenya, Brazil, Nigeria and Mexico. At the premiere screening in Geneva of his documentary film, Wetin Day, Mr. Mogaji discussed how copyright is critical to building sustainable film and media-based industries in developing countries. The following comments are extracted from our interview with Mr. Mogaji after the screening.

" Voices, our main project since 2003, has been training broadcasters in various skills and producing programs. We hope that when we leave, in 2, 4 or 5 years time, that we leave a production unit, that is stand alone. We also hope that the people we have trained will act as trainers to the industry – we are hoping to transform the industry that way. In the end, this has got to be a commercial enterprise, and to have a commercial enterprise you need copyright in place for the money to come back. We target the young to get students aware of copyright, before they come into the industry.

"We like to see ourselves as a diaspora project, we try to bring as many people as possible back to Nigeria to train Nigerians. Some of the brightest and the best in the industries around the world, in the UK, in the US, in France, are Nigerian or are Africans certainly. There had been this massive brain drain in Nigeria, and there still is. It needs to be reversed for Nigeria to rejuvenate.

"There is a connection between good copyright protection and enforcement and attracting people to come back home. If these things were in place, they would earn money and this would generate a new industry. Nigeria needs a new industry. Africa needs a proper self-standing media in order to be able to speak for itself, to be able to show itself and most importantly to be able to reflect itself.

"Right now copyright plays very little part in "Nollywood", Nigeria’s cinema industry. Soon after films are released – they’re released on video, not celluloid – they are copied. And there are no returns on that. The marketers make money back from their initial outlay to have the movie made, but there is no further trickle down to the producers, to the creators. Legislation is no good unless it’s enforced. This is a concern for those of us working, trying to build a sustainable creative industry in Nigeria.

"Why are we doing all this training? To improve the quality of the product. Make a quality product, your audience will appreciate it, they will realize that it’s something worth paying for. But we have to be realistic. Nigeria is a country of maybe 140 million people, 90 million of whom live on a dollar a day or less. We say to the producers that they must set realistic prices if they want their work respected. I think there is an education both ways there."

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