In our sequence of letters from African writers, novelist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani considers the Nigerian authorities’s transfer to crack down on international fashions in adverts.
Some within the British and American media have interpreted Nigeria’s prohibition on using international fashions as a ban on white individuals and international accents, and an try and free ourselves from a colonial mentality.
However this ignores the truth that there are a lot of Nigerians at dwelling and overseas with British and American accents – genuine or faux – in addition to some Nigerians who’re blonde-haired and blue-eyed.
My good buddy, Jackie Farris, was born to white American dad and mom in Florida within the US, however has made Nigeria her everlasting residence for greater than 25 years, and has a inexperienced Nigerian passport to point out for it.
There are additionally many white girls married to Nigerian males. Whereas Nigerian immigration regulation doesn’t grant automated citizenship to a international man who marries a Nigerian lady, international girls who marry Nigerian males are allowed to carry Nigerian passports.
The brand new regulation, which covers international fashions and voice-over artists in adverts launched throughout the nation and takes impact on 1 October, can’t forestall these bona fide residents of Nigeria from being featured in commercials, no matter the color of their pores and skin.
However, as poorly thought-out as this new coverage appears to be, one can see what the Nigerian authorities is attempting to do.
It’s “in keeping with the federal authorities’s coverage of growing native expertise, inclusive financial development, and the necessity to take needed steps and actions geared toward rising the Nigerian promoting trade,” an official introduced in a press release launched final week.
Comparable bans on “international” have been up to now few years positioned on various fashionable gadgets as a way to increase native manufacturing.
Rice, for instance, is likely one of the most consumed staple meals within the nation – eaten not less than twice every week by most Nigerians, in line with analysis group Dataphyte – and lots of Nigerians most well-liked the imported variations even when the native rice was cheaper.
Whereas there are a lot of criticisms and flaws of the federal government’s January 2018 full ban on the importation of foreign-produced rice, there has additionally been a lift in native manufacturing and high quality, with various younger Nigerians turning into rice-farming entrepreneurs.
Nigeria in 2020 turned the most important producer of rice in Africa and the 14th largest producer on the earth.
There may be hardly any empirical proof to assist Nigerians’ choice for international accents and appearances over native, however the anecdotal proof is obvious.
Most of the nation’s fashionable radio personalities – particularly those who enchantment to the center courses – have British or American accents, as do many academics within the major and secondary faculties that cost essentially the most exorbitant charges.
Many – particularly younger – Nigerians who’ve by no means travelled overseas converse English with international accents that they most likely learnt from learning MTV music movies and Hollywood movies.
Advertisers should have noticed all this and realised the advantage of investing in international fashions and accents.
A lot of adverts proven in Nigeria are shot overseas, with largely international solid and crew – thus, with little profit to the Nigerian promoting trade.
However the authorities’s ban on rice imports didn’t essentially curb the craving for international variations of the product.
Smugglers, subsequently, materialized to fill the necessity, and international rice stays accessible however costlier, often introduced in by way of the nation’s porous land borders as a substitute of shipped by sea as earlier than.
Nevertheless, whilst you can sit within the privateness of your eating room and devour a pot of jollof rice with out authorities regulators and enforcers taking word, it will be troublesome – and counter-productive – to hide an advert that incorporates a brunette mannequin talking modern English by way of her pointed nostril.
What might occur as a substitute is that demand might improve for foreigners who may declare to be Nigerian.
Fashions and voice-over artists with Nigerian citizenship, parentage, DNA, ancestry, and no matter different hyperlink to the nation, regardless of how tenuous, might abruptly discover themselves in excessive demand.
A few of these individuals might have by no means set foot on Nigerian soil. A few of them could also be pressured to go to the Nigerian embassy of their nation of domicile for the primary time of their lives, to start the method of buying the inexperienced passport that they might have beforehand despised.
In the long run, advertisers would nonetheless get the international accents and appearances that they need, with out breaking any legal guidelines of the Nigerian land.
Extra Letters from Africa:
Observe us on Twitter @BBCAfrica, on Fb at BBC Africa or on Instagram at bbcafrica