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Ecobank partners others on +234 Art Fair to boost creatives’ contributions to economy



Mr Bolaji Lawal, Managing Director/Regional Executive of Ecobank Nigeria, has highlighted the pivotal role of the creative sector in Nigeria’s economic revival.

Lawal said this at the introduction of the +234art fair organised by Ecobank, AFC & Soto Gallery at the bank’s headquarters to newsmen on Thursday in Lagos.

He said that the banking industry four years ago, in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, recognised the potential of the creative industry as a catalyst for economic transformation.

Lawal said that banks collectively agreed that the creative sector could serve as a springboard for revitalising the Nigerian economy because of its significant contributions to national development.

According to him, Nigerian banks, through the Bankers’ Committee, invested in revamping the National Art Theatre, recognising the power of empowering individuals within the sector to drive economic growth.

Lawal emphasised that the vast potential within Nigeria’s population, said over 100 million individuals and out of which approximately 60 million reside in urban areas and a significant portion engaged in informal businesses.

He stressed the need to support and empower these entrepreneurs to harness their skills to foster economic sustainability and provide decent livelihoods.

Drawing attention to the success stories of artists like Wizkid and Burna Boy, Lawal underscored the potential for exponential growth if similar opportunities were extended to more people in the sector.

He noted that behind every successful artist, there exists a network of individuals, including managers, publicists, and assistants, whose livelihoods also depend on the success of the creative industry.

“We believe that if we give artists and creatives across the spectrum, they can turn around the economy. We have another population of over 100 million and within the urban area, about 60 million. For those who formerly employed, they’re less than 20 million. So, you have about 40 million people in business with an economic cycle of 24 hours. They just run their own business.

“Now, if we don’t take care of that sector and grow it, we don’t have an economy. The people with this type, they’re not really the core Nigerians. There are so many more people outside.

“But, how can we empower them to work? It’s just their skills. And to earn a livelihood that is decent. So, if we can instigate, empower and drive that, then the economy becomes a lot more viable. Look at Wizkid and Burna Boy. Just with their voices, they are earning millions.

“Now, imagine if we have 5,000 or 10,000 or 20,000. Look, for every successful artist, there are about 50 people working behind them. Supporting them. You have the manager, you have the publicist, and you have the PA.

“So, if we bring out more successful creatives, then we need to solve some of the problems that we have in the country. And we would also earn further currency,” he said.

Responding to inquiries about plans to expand support to other creatives such as content creation and digital art, Lawal expressed optimism, saying, “We are taking significant strides, and the market will ultimately determine the success of our endeavours.

“By embracing digital art and exploring various creative avenues, we can unlock further economic opportunities and address pressing challenges facing our nation.”

Lawal along said that the initiative was spearheaded by collaborative efforts between the local community and financial institutions like AFC, AAP, Chase, and Chida.

According to him, AFC became part of the initiative as a sponsor because it has the same values and aspirations with other involved partners.

Meanwhile, Mrs Tola Akerele, founder Soto Gallery and Curator, +234 Art Fair, also spoke on the transformative potential of the creative sector in driving economic revitalisation.

With a focus on empowering emerging artists to become international earners, Akerele said that the initiative aimed to bolster the arts economy and uplift communities.

She said that within the past eight years, the platform, supporting emerging artists, had catalysed remarkable growth, with many participants transitioning to global exhibitions.

She said that this underscored the impact of providing resources and opportunities for artistic development.

“And now, they’re exhibiting globally. So, it may look like a small beginning, but actually, with all the tools we’re giving them, they can really become very empowered and contribute to the arts economy, which is actually quite a huge one globally,” she noted.

On how the emerging artists were selected, she explained that they were picked not because they were young or old but because they were never showcased internationally.

She said that the process for selection was through their subscription to a podcast across several social media in January.

“So, it’s all being curated. We selected the artists. Because we’re a gallery, we know the quality of the work and the potential of the artists.

“So, there was a call that was done initially back in January. And then from that call, we looked at all the works that were submitted and then made a selection from there,” she added.

The 10-day fair, which begins on Friday, March 23, curates a diverse selection of artists, including digital art,

With 232 artists exhibiting works ranging from affordable to high-value pieces, the initiative aims to democratise access to art.

Organisers emphasised that while perfection may not be the immediate goal, the initiative represents a crucial step towards realising the transformative potential of the creative economy.

Curated by Soto Gallery, the collaborative approach by Ecobank and AFC will help to catalyse the creative sector by enabling emerging artists to achieve recognition and livelihoods through art sales locally and internationally.

Alongside showcasing artwork, +234Art Fair will focus on enhancing the creative skills of participating artists through workshops with established local and international artists.

The exhibition’s title, ‘+234Art’, combines Nigeria’s country dialing code with the concept of art to signpost a thorough exposition of regional art and how it interacts with the larger art community across the continent and beyond.

Grace Alegba

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