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Nigeria Loses N2bn To Foreign Content On Children’s Programmes, Books


Nigeria Loses N2bn To Foreign Content On Children’s Programmes, Books


bookd2Nigerian children’s television programmes and book publishing, which have been on a steep decline since the 1990s have been taken over by foreign content. Analysts estimate that the sector has been losing more than N2 billion annually to an influx of foreign produced television content and books. With a population of over 160 million, the market for books and audio-visual materials in Nigeria is huge. And the country is said to have had perhaps one of the largest number of publishing houses, of any African nation, when the book industry thrived in the1970s.

Back then, the Federal Government established paper and pulp making industries and made plans to achieve self-sufficiency in the production of books. That plan was not realisable, which gave rise to a book famine which foreign publishers and producers now feed on. What obtains these days is that most publishers and even individuals, would rather go abroad to print books. BusinessDay gathered that developing countries account for an increasing share of global exports in cultural goods – from $4.2 billion and 11.2% in 1994 to $11.6 billion and 21.2% by 2002.

This growth was particularly pronounced for audio-visual media, where developing countries’ share rose to 44.6% in 2002 from 27.6% in 1994. In 2008 developing countries accounted for more than $17.8 billion in exports of cultural goods, an increase of more than 50%. Going by current demographics, if there are 25 million pupils in Nigerian schools and each of them buys five books on core subjects, it will translate to 125 million books. And assuming each of these books sells for N200, a whopping sum of N250bn will be injected into the economy. Printers, distributors and many others will be engaged.

BusinessDay gathered that foreign production companies like Nickelodeon and Disney have stepped in to fill the vacuum created by the absence of, or poorly produced local TV programmes for children. On June 1st 2011 in South Africa, Walt Disney Company announced the launch of Disney Junior, a pre-school channel for children aged 2 to7 on DSTV. Disney’s programmes like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Jungle Junction, Handy Manny and Special Agent Oso, have become favourites of children in Nigeria. Analysts say that this may be adversely affecting the development of local content for children and the market for indigenous storybooks.

“Local TV stations like NTA used to have an unparalleled heritage of classic story telling programmes,” says Akintayo Abodurin, a writer. “Tales By Moonlight, is a classic example and Kiddy Vision 101 is another. Very loveable characters are portrayed in these programmes with engaging music and learning through play. They have been proven to deliver the perfect co-viewing experience for children and families, particularly mothers of young children.”

Abodunrin explained that one of the factors that have led to the decline in the quality of children’s TV programmes in the country is cost of production. “Programmes are no longer being produced because of the high cost of production. TV stations are supposed to pay content providers but it is the other way round in Nigeria.

Children’s programmes are a bit expensive to produce if you are an independent producer with no studio or equipment of your own.” With virtually no support from the government or local banks, those that could have gone into this segment of content production have abandoned the space for foreign produced content, some of which are in conflict with our cultural values, he said.

Dayo Alabi, managing director, The Books Company Limited, in an interview with the media says most of the books sold in Nigeria are printed outside the country. This has contributed to the dwindling fortunes of the local publishing industry. According to him, not less than 75 percent of books published by Nigerian companies are printed abroad.

“If you import books from anywhere in the world, they are duty-free but if you import printing paper, you pay duty. If you import plates, films, printing machines, and the computers you use to do your graphic design, you pay duty. By the time you put the cost of printing together, plus electricity that is hardly available, the cost of producing a particular book will be twice the cost of getting the book printed for you abroad. When you print it outside Nigeria, you are importing books into the country, which is duty free by UNESCO protocol,” he said.

He disclosed that many Nigerian publishers now go to India, Malaysia and China to print their books. The impact is that employment rate in the printing industry has been cut down drastically, with many people in the sector now out of job. He said this contributes to the country’s high unemployment rate, with Government losing out on the taxes that could have accrued from the sector.

He adds that this is easily seen in the dwindling fortunes of book publishing companies in Nigeria. For example, Iwu Juliana James, librarian at Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, in her research on the Nigerian publishing industry, observes that Onibonoje Publishers, Ibadan, publishers of pre – primary, primary and post primary titles, have been forced to cut down on its number of staff and working hours, in a bid to save cost. “Onibonoje Book Publishing Company opens only between Mondays and Wednesdays (three days), as a measure to cut cost.

The company has only 12 staff, compared to its initial start-off of 350 when the research was done. There was staff downsizing as a measure to cut cost, owing largely to the drastic devaluation of the naira and declining purchasing power of the majority of consumers,” she states.

University Press Plc, a major book publisher in Nigeria, has only been able to make additional sales of N468 million in the last three years, from 2009 to 2012 despite Nigeria’s increasing population and fast growing economy, BusinessDay Research Data shows. Learn Africa Plc, another major book publisher, has seen consistent decline in sales since 2010 with the company plunging into a N65 million loss in its first results ended March, submitted to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).


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