Meet The Female Entrepreneur Empowering Nigeria’s Theatre Industry

Bolanle Austen-Peter’s passion for theatre has created an industry that has become a model for Lagos state’s new arts investment.

Last week, Marketplace Africa was with Austen-Peter before one of our productions started. Immediately after the performance was over, she had her next show in London. However, satisfying her home crowd was her main focus that moment.

Marketplace Africa met the young entrepreneur an hour before the show began. But Austen-Peter’s largest project to date is not the show but rather, it is the theatre itself.

“Unfortunately we don’t have many places like this (theatre) in Nigeria. I think we are probably the only one right now that can give you the full technicals and this kind of space to perform,” Austen Peter said.

The 400 sit theatre is part of a larger complex that includes a restaurant and an art gallery it’s called Terra Kulture.

The venue is performing so well that the Lagos state government wants to replicate it all over the state.

Speaking with Steve Ayorinde, the Lagos state’s Information Commissioner, he said, “there are 6 theatre projects that the Lagos state government is embarking on and we taught that if we can partner with Terra Kulture to recreate this sort of model in all the 5 divisions of Lagos state it will be a win-win.”

Austen-Peter was contracted by the government to oversee construction of the new complexes they have a budget of about a million dollars each.

“I think increasingly people are beginning to see the art as a vehicle for employment and also a lot of revenue can be generated for Nigeria from the arts,” Austen-Peter said.

Nigeria has long been recognized for its film industry known as Nollywood but now some have started to see value in other creative areas as well.

Speaking with Olukayode Pitan the CEO of Bank of Industry, he said, “It’s a large growing area that employs a lot of Nigerians and we are happy to be part off those who are making this happen.”

The Bank of Industry has invested in many of Nigeria’s entertainment projects including Terra Kulture and some movie theaters.

“We take a risk on them,” Pitan said. “But from our experience it is being worth it, the market has grown, most of the loans have been paid back so we are trying to do more.”

President Buhari included the creative industry in his economic recovery plan and believes that the sector will play a large role in Nigeria’s plan to diversify from oil. The Bank of Industry values the sector at about 3 billion dollars, but the Lagos State government believes the economic impact may be far greater.

The Information Commissioner said, “There are millions of our youths either waiting to get into school or coming out of school, looking for jobs. There are jobs waiting in the creative sector and this is the reason why we are embarking on this.”

Austen Peter said at least 150 people are employed for every production, something the government finds very attractive. She said ticket sales, sponsorship and revenues from the supporting businesses keep the complex profitable. The Lagos State government hopes to follow the same model when its new complexes are completed. They are expected to open before the end of 2018.

But until then spectators can continue to get a taste of what’s to come from the place that inspires them all.

Despite the growing interest for theatre and trade shows in Lagos, Nigeria’s movie industry is still king of the country’s entertainment sector.