Born in Africa Festival: Bank CEO Reiterates commitments to Arts

The Access Bank Group CEO, Herbert Wigwe has reiterated his support for the Born in Africa Festival. The festival aligns with one of his philosophies – a festival that takes all his experience as a mentor and collaborator to creators and his drive to create an industry that not only supports talent, but creates platforms that allow these talents shine.

The Born in Africa Festival is another opportunity to redefine the industry’s standards of excellence and ask all the other banks if they are giving their best. If you attended or even heard about the Born in Africa Festival, then you already have your answer.

For instance, in December 2018, over 10,000 young Nigerians gathered on the grounds of the new Eko Atlantic City. They wore distinctive bracelets, some received from an Access Bank branch, others won via promos on social media, still others bought outright through the many virtual sale platforms hosted by Access Bank.

They had come for the Access Bank  ‘Born in Africa’  Festival, which was a celebration of all the homegrown talent the continent has nurtured and a promise of the future of immersive, integrated entertainment. Some were skeptical of the festival as there were already several events hosted by other banks with middling reviews.

The question is what was Access Bank bringing that the others hadn’t? For one, they were bringing the stellar vision of the bank’s Managing Director/CEO, Herbert Wigwe. Herbert’s keen interest in creative arts was cultivated by his father, Pastor Shyngle Wigwe, a former director of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). His father ensured that Herbert understood that there are under-explored technical and business elements to any successful creative endeavor, knowing how to create a balance between an innovative product and a successful vehicle to market and profit from that product. Though Herbert himself never pursued a creative career, his interest in finding and sustaining that balance never waned.

Only few people fully realize how much the creative industry in Nigeria has grown. It is easy to overlook the growth, to understate the collective triumphs of an industry that only two decades ago had become so stuck in a creative rut that many creators gave up their passions to return to the corporate lifestyle. One of the reasons for this decline was that the financial services industry couldn’t figure out, how to provide a framework that worked to keep the creative industry in business.

As a global traveller, Herbert had experienced first-hand the convenience of having a physical presence in every city, and he sought to replicate that through a series of mergers with other banks whose business ethos complemented his vision. Those mergers allowed Herbert expand Access Bank’s reach across the country, eventually spreading into Ghana and seven other African countries. That influence would be spread even further as Herbert led the bank to become one of the country’s first financial institutions to actively embrace the integration of technology into their banking practices.

With the problem of ease of access addressed, it was relatively simple for Herbert to tackle the other challenge faced by the creative industry. Convincing patrons to show their enthusiasm for creative work is hard enough with the constraints and frustrations of bureaucracy. For Herbert, it was important that the process was simplified in ways that kept the creator happy and the process simple for the customer. From the Access Bank apps to other alternative banking channels, all the barriers to painless transactions have been removed.

Wigwe is widely known as a lover of arts, which is why he is so involved in the creative projects that Access Bank supports and sponsors, like the Ake Book and Arts Festival; the continent’s premier book festival; the Art X art fair, known as West Africa’s most prestigious art fair; and the African International Film Festival-West Africa’s most prestigious film festival. With an eye for winning initiatives, Access Bank lends support  both in technical, business terms and financial grants which allow these oases of creative effort thrive. Access Bank has also supported the Lagos City Marathon in partnership with the Lagos State Government.

This is a complex project with several creators in the visual arts, architecture, printing, design and entertainment fields working together to make each edition, bigger and better than the last.