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Assistant Secretary Ramin Toloui’s Keynote Remarks on IP Protection at the Africa Creative Market
November 6, 2023 | Lagos, Nigeria
November 6, 2023

As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning, everyone! I am delighted to be here on my very first trip to Nigeria as Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs, at the U.S. Department of State.  I just arrived last night from South Africa, and already I can see why everyone finds Lagos to be such an electric place.  The energy here is palpable.

I would like to thank Dr. Inya Lawal from Ascend Foundation Studios for partnering with us to organize today’s IP programming within the Africa Creative Market.  I would also like to thank her partner at Paramount, Bada Akintunde Johnson, and Herbert Wigwe for supporting the event.  Finally, thank you to Wale Ajisebutu, Chairman and CEO of 21st Century Technologies for hosting us at your beautiful state-of the-art location, and for taking the time to join us today, as well as our colleagues at the U.S. Mission in Nigeria who helped us organize today’s event.

Within the State Department, I help lead our efforts to deepen cooperation with other countries to address economic challenges and to maximize global economic opportunities for all partners involved.  We have a long history of coordinating with the creative industries in Africa and around the world, especially as it pertains to the promotion and protection of Intellectual Property Rights, which ensures that entrepreneurs are fairly compensated for their creativity.

The Nigerian creative sector has grown in leaps and bounds.  We have American actors now interested in featuring on Nigerian movie screens and we also continue to see more Nigerian music artists collaborating with their American counterparts.

To see examples of this rich collaboration, look no further than Burna Boy becoming the first African to sell out a U.S. stadium, New York Citi Field, or Rema’s hit song “Calm Down”, which later featured American artist Selena Gomez.  In fact, that was the most streamed Afrobeats song of 2022, surpassing one billion streams across all platforms and was also the first African song to spend a year on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Part of this success is due to rising demand for Nigerian content from the global African diaspora.  This has led to a steady rise in the export of African content through digital streaming and international touring, and growing numbers of African-based investors who are directing capital towards early-stage creator economy startups.  The U.S. government supports and is proud to see burgeoning ties in the creative industry between the United States and Nigeria, bringing our two countries closer together and furthering investment opportunities in the film and television, music, arts, sports, gaming, and tech arenas.

Strengthening those partnerships was a key priority for President Biden during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit last December, which the White House organized as a testament to the strength of the U.S-Africa relationship.  During the portion of the Summit that highlighted the economic potential of the creative industries, we announced our intention to partner with stakeholders across the creative ecosystem–creatives and policymakers alike—to help grow the creative economy.  We have taken up this charge by focusing on a key piece of the puzzle that allows creatives to monetize their work and attract additional investment:  intellectual property protection.

The founders of the United States believed that intellectual property was so important that one of the specific grants of power to Congress written into our very Constitution was the power to define and to protect intellectual property through measures such as the issuance of patents and copyrights.

You may be wondering why the U.S. government, in its partnership with the Government of Nigeria, would highlight the creative industries or the IP protections that support the sector, among all the priorities we work on together.

It is simple.  The cultural sector alone accounts for 3.1% of global gross domestic product (GDP). The creative industries generate annual revenues of over $2 trillion and account for nearly 50 million jobs worldwide according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, and that’s not all.  Nigeria’s creative industries have the potential to become Nigeria’s largest export sector and could create an estimated 2.7 million jobs by 2050 for the country’s growing youth population, and $100 billion to Nigeria’s GDP by 2030.

I was just reading a Forbes article that highlighted the creative industries as the fastest growing sector, and noted a prediction that the creative economy could account for 10% of global GDP by 2030.

The creative industries also employ more young people—namely those aged 15-29—than any other sector, and with women constituting nearly half of the creative workforce, it serves us all to support a sector that is creating equitable opportunity for all.

Strong intellectual property rights regimes establish secure legal frameworks for investment in – and commercialization of – innovation and creativity.  This enables firms, including innovative start-ups, to navigate the perilous process of transforming a creative work into a commercially viable product and to successfully compete in the global marketplace.  Those IP frameworks simultaneously safeguard the public interest and create an environment in which innovation and creativity can generate growth and prosperity.

A strong system of IP rights assures inventors, industrial designers, and creative artists that their ideas will be protected and that they can receive payment for the use of their creations.  Moreover, it attracts additional investment into the creative industries.  After all, who wants to invest in innovations without assurance that their investment will be protected? Strong IP protection therefore creates value and jobs that extend well beyond the traditional boundaries of the creative sector.  The drivers, managers, caterers, venue hosts, and so many more, are all employed throughout the creative economy.  Rising tides lift all boats.

This is why we are so delighted to see Nigeria continuing to invest in the growth of the creative industries with the newly announced Destination 2030 Initiative.  A supportive policy and regulatory environment is crucial to the development of Africa’s creative economies.  Promoting and fostering a strong creative ecosystem requires everyone to bring their talents and perspectives to the table, so it is exciting to see that a cross-section of ministries and creatives have been engaged in this process.

Here in Nigeria, the U.S. government has supported the growth of the creative economy for nearly a decade.  In the past few years, we have redoubled our efforts to build capacity in the industry by facilitating exchanges between American experts and emerging talents in the music and art sectors.  We have sponsored leading Nigerian IPR lawyers to further their technical expertise through training in the United States.  And we have strengthened the ecosystem of fashion entrepreneurs, designers, and photographers, spurring exponential growth in their businesses.  For example, in 2021 we created an on-demand International Visitor Leadership Program for 20 Nigerians in the fashion space: designers, photographers, etc.  After their three-week IVLP course we hosted a showcase for them at the Consul General’s Residence to connect them to sponsors and expand their brand.  This year, two of them were featured designers in Lagos Fashion Week.

Now, for the 9th consecutive year, the U.S. Mission in Nigeria is supporting the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) to further strengthen the collaboration between the Nigerian and American film industries.  This year we are providing funding for capacity building trainings for emerging filmmakers and directors. We are bringing back the Global Media Makers from California to conduct masterclasses for film directors during this year’s AFRIFF.  These connections between Nigerian and American creatives are simultaneously helping our people and economies.

So as you can see, the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit was just a snapshot in a fuller collage of engagements with African partners.  Since then, several senior officials of the Biden-Harris Administration have visited and will continue to visit the continent to advance specific programs and deepen U.S.-Africa ties.

Many of you may recall that during the Summit, there was a day devoted to business, commercial, and investment issues.  That day resulted in some $15.7 billion in agreements being made between American companies and African countries and companies.  Since then, the number of deals has actually increased to $16.2 billion.  These deals have covered a wide range of areas, including infrastructure, health care, solar system implementation and establishment, as well as agricultural activities.

Several U.S. film and entertainment companies, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Paramount, are making large investments in the Nigerian market and are seeing strong prospects for future investments.  I want to see many more investments and increased commercial ties.  Nigeria is a powerhouse of creativity, and we stand in steadfast partnership with all of you in this room to support the conditions that allow creatives to thrive.

I am looking forward to the in-depth discussions and breakout sessions focusing on leveraging IP protections to grow your creative businesses.

Thank you for your time.