How Young Nigerian Creatives are Coping with Inaccess to the Right Tools

“When I first started writing,” says Destiny, a promising writer and voice-over artist from Nigeria, “it was simply a means of expression.”

For many other young Nigerian creatives, these words hold true. The journey begins from the same place — passion. It’s the passion to just be yourself, do what you love, and express yourself to be heard. During this stage of a creative’s journey, it doesn’t really matter if you have the best tools required or not. You just want to be you.

Then comes the stage where you’ve got to make a transition from passion to profession. It doesn’t mean that you no longer have the passion, but man has got to make some bread. 

It is at this stage that having the right tools becomes a necessity for young creatives. Now, this is a reality that has posed a great challenge for young people still trying to find their place in the world and, moreso, doing that in a place like Nigeria. Depending on the creative field involved, these tools can be either online or offline.

Nigeria’s creative industry currently employs 4.2 million people, and despite these huge numbers, the accessibility of specialised tools to aid the creative process poses a huge problem. This is due to various causes, including but not limited to poor power supply, an unstable internet network, and high inflation.

In light of these causes, young Nigerian creatives have had to hack their way through, improvising on needed tools to express their creativity while still earning a living.

“They say necessity begets invention,” Destiny speaks about this need for Nigerian creatives to find their way to make things work. “I think almost every creative person (especially in Nigeria) knows how to make rubber bands into erasers. The fact is, you’ll have to compromise or simply fall short on the quality of output sometimes, especially in the professional space”. This captures the Nigerian spirit of resilience — “go hard or go home”.

Recalling his early days as a baker and sugar artist, Ace Baker says his lack of an airbrush machine prompted him to use brushes to paint his cakes. The brushes sure got the job done, but still, the effects weren’t the same, not to mention the efficiency as well.

It’s one thing to make do with what you have, but it’s another thing to make something acceptable to clients and fans alike. In the words of Yolanda, a model and fashion enthusiast, “it’s easy for people not to take you seriously when they’re not seeing you with badass equipment.” Laxxy, a songwriter and music artist, supports this view as he admitted that in his early days, people found his work unprofessional, and despite his talent, the branding was lacking. His sound output changed after he got better recording equipment and more visibility from better branding. He is reaping the benefits of his investment in improvement and now has a song featuring mainstream act Zoro.

The lack of professional appeal caused by inadequate tools largely contributes to the employability problem. In an industry occupied by 4.2 million people, it is evident that opportunities are limited, and there’s serious competition for the few available. Employers are big on their job requirements, and proficiency in specific tools tops the list.

Edit, a content creator, says he’s lost multiple opportunities due to his lack of access to a laptop and, weirdly, a knowledge of HTML. The story is the same for me. I had to quit graphic design after losing multiple job applications because I wasn’t proficient in using Photoshop, Illustrator, and Corel Draw (PC software), even though I had two years of professional experience with Canva and Pixellab. I have gone back to my first love, writing, and though I have lost a few opportunities due to my lack of a laptop, the discrimination isn’t as high as before.

It’s no secret that many young creatives lack access to essential tools in their field, but does it affect their skill level?

Goodness believes that not having access to essential tools shouldn’t stop anyone from learning the basics) of their craft, and he also thinks that the tool is only as good as the user. He shares his own experience: “Well, yes, even after getting a laptop, I lost clients because I didn’t know how to use a particular tool (Photoshop) and the work required it then.”

Edit says that there’s only a 20% chance that having the right tools affects a creative’s skill proficiency, and Eunice seems to agree with him, “Well, I would not say it determines(a creative’s skill level), but it most definitely enhances.” There’s a counter opinion from Destiny, who thinks that while a creative can begin without tools, he’d need them to navigate the market.

The importance of the right tools for every creative can’t be overemphasised. There are the benefits of an increased employability rate; being in tandem with industry standards, a better quality of your work, increased productivity and efficiency; and not forgetting that it just makes your creative process easy and less stressful. The Bible captures this succinctly in Ecclesiastes 10:10, “If an iron axhead is blunt and a workman does not sharpen its edge, he must exert a great deal of effort.”

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