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Exploiting the AMAA brand opportunities

Source: http://nigeriafilms.com

But for organisers of the African Movies Academy Awards (AMAA) Nigeria's presence at the recently concluded Cannes Film Festival would not have been noticed. Media... reports said the Nigeria Pavilion was empty and country's official delegation had nothing to show the rest of the world about our motion picture industry that has been described by UNESCO as the second in the world, though not in quality but by numbers of flicks we churn out daily.
Other countries came to Cannes to showcase their culture, film locations and motion picture stars to the rest of the world. The good news was AMAA saved the situation for Nigeria through its party that was reportedly well attended with filmmakers and other motion picture professionals around the world who used the opportunity to ask questions and seek information on Nigeria film industry.

In a recent interview, Ms Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, AMAA Chief Executive noted that apart from the Federal Government through the Ministry of Information every state in the country should use the opportunity that the pavilion lends to market their tourist and film potentials.

At many international fora and film festivals, AMAA has represented Nigeria very well and has become a major advocacy platform to project an industry in dire need of help in area of funding, capacity development and partnership.

Bayelsa State and United Bank for Africa (UBA) have identified with AMAA as sponsors in the last five years. UBA sponsorship however started two years ago but how are the two sponsors optimising their leverage on a brand so successful with a continental appeal and acceptance. I have always argued that it is not enough for sponsors to just throw money on any sponsorship property without fully maximising all the benefits.

Bayelsa to me should have worked well to maximise its investment in AMAA by using all available major international film festivals to sell its beautiful locations that can be used by film makers. The sights and sounds of Bayelsa should be produced either in video or multimedia format and be shown at Nigeria's pavilion accompanied with information booklet and brochures on other available tourism infrastructures such as hotels, parks and beaches that could be used to make films. Hollywood film makers are spending millions of dollars every year to shoot films in Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and other African countries. The 'Last King of Scotland' a Hollywood film that won Oscar award was shot in Uganda. It starred Forest Whittaker who played the lead role as Idi Amin, the country's former dictator.

Nigeria Film Corporation and the Federal Ministry of Information are also guilty of not using major international festivals to properly market our country as a film destination in Africa. Nigeria has beautiful locations that will be instant attractions to film makers around the world. It however appears we cannot do anything right in this country. Government officials are more interested in estacodes than what will promote national interest.

Beyond the euphoria of media mileage, UBA should move a step further by using AMAA as a platform to effectively partner with the film and entertainment industry. This, is as industry, the Federal Ministry of Finance said has a potential of generating over $1billion annual revenue and offering jobs to more than 200,000 Nigerians directly and indirectly. Despite its inadequacies, the industry has caught the attention of World Bank and the Breton Wood institution is about to spend about $150million to help develop the industry. UBA should be looking at developing financial products and credit system that can help the industry thrive thus making the bank the first choice of industry practitioners. Nothing stops UBA from funding a film project for best Producer in Nigeria or Africa. The film will celebrate the African spirit, our heroes and heroines in a positive and enduring manner. The bank can then use such flick in a road show across Africa, most especially in countries where it has business presence to deepen its Africa's global bank slogan.

It will be sad to allow other countries in Africa take over an idea that was conceived and nurtured in Nigeria for their advantage. The signs are ominous as there are whispers that South Africa is interested in hosting AMAA. Western Union and some other South African brands are said to be showing interest in sponsoring the awards if the organisers could move it out of Nigeria.

If this happened, Bayelsa will be the greatest loser not because of the money it has spent in the past but because it would have denied the ordinary citizens of the state the only opportunity to benefit from any government backed initiative. It is not impossible there are people who may not see the intrinsic value in AMAA within the state but having been part of the event for two years I know majority of the people of Bayelsa want AMAA because of its ripple effect on local economy.

Before AMAA the state was a no-go-area for anybody as a result of militancy and unrest. At the time Bayelsa has gained notoriety for kidnapping, hostage taking, pipeline vandalisation and other forms of criminalities arising from genuine struggle for self-determination and resource control by patriotic citizens of the Niger-Delta region. Bayelsa was in a mess. Meeting the challenges of development which the state and the entire region badly needed became very cumbersome due to violent activities of militants. The then governor of the state, DSP Alameisegha needed a platform to bring visitors and tourists to the state as a precursor to assuring the rest of the world that the state was not at war.

The situation got to a head in year 2000 when the then President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered the Army to ransack Odi Village in Bayelsa to fish out some militants that killed about 19 soldiers who were on duty in the area to protect oil installations. The military operations in Odi led to local and global outcry and condemnation and the military had to halt the operation. This was the precarious situation Bayelsa was and DSP was in a hurry to change the pariah status of the state within Nigeria. The security situation was so bad that many oil companies and oil services firms either scaled down their operations or declare force Majeure in the state. Visitors-Nigerians and foreign nationals avoided Bayelsa like a plaque.

The first edition of AMAA in 2005 worked like talisman of India. Celebrities, fashionistas and showbiz icons from different parts of the world stormed Bayelsa in their numbers. The state received visitors it never saw since its creation. For more than 48 hours Bayelsa rocked. The people of the state were in ecstatic mood to see their superstars in music, movie, comedy and TV. Even militants surrendered their arms to be part of the show.

Before AMAA the hospitality infrastructures necessary to boost tourism and other socio-economic development were at point zero. This created huge logistics problem for the first three editions of the awards as many of the guest had to be accommodated in nearby Port Harcourt and other adjourning towns due to paucity of hotel accommodation in Yenagoa, the state capital. Five years after, the story has changed as the state capital has become a huge construction site. Many hotels have been built by private individuals while the state government has promised that its two five-star hotels under construction through Public Private Sector Participation would be ready to host AMAA in 2010.

The question is whether AMAA will still happen in Bayelsa after the state has invested resources in helping the brand to grow and acceptable across Africa should the organisers bow to pressure to move it out of the state? Beyond brand association AMAA has helped the local economy of Yenagoa.

Hotel operators, restaurant owners, cab operators, Okada Riders and other auxiliary services' providers look forward to the event every year as it has become opportunity for them to do good business. All the hotels in the state year round have less than 30% occupancy rate but during AMAA they are always full. The rate of infrastructural development in the state, most especially, the capital has been accelerated by the government to make the state more attractive to visitors and tourists. AMAA has helped the government to identify the huge economic opportunities inherent in many of the beautiful and natural locations that dot the state. Bayelsa should hold on to AMAA and not allow it to slip because of the many socio-economic gains.

For years, Los Angeles has been the host city of Grammy while other cities in different parts of the world have taken cue by hosting big international events. Even within Nigeria there is pressure to move AMAA out of Bayelsa on Peace Anyiam-Osigwe according to available information. Some corporate sponsors are said to be wooing her to come to Lagos or Abuja for them to put their money. Other African countries are asking for a piece of the show since the awards is meant to be a continental awards.

Having gone this far with AMAA there should be no reason for the organisers to contemplate moving it out of Bayelsa . Whatever might be the issue between Bayelsa and the awards organisers that will make them to even consider the possibility of moving the awards out of the oil-rich state should be resolved. The good thing is that the State Governor, Mr. Timi Sylva, is also as passionate about AMAA as his predecessors. He said this much at the last edition in April.