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Nigeria is banning foreign actors and models from its ads as of Oct. 1

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Beginning next month, advertising in Nigeria may have a different look and sound - at least that's what regulators hope. In what is believed to be the first-of-its-kind regulation, Nigeria is planning to ban the use of foreign models and voiceover artists in advertising, as of October 1. In a tweet, the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria, which created the ban, said it is aimed at developing the country's talent pool in the advertising industry and to make its growth more inclusive. We wanted to hear more about what this law would mean for talent and booking agents and how people in Nigeria are responding, so we've called Tolulope Kolade. He is an award-winning voiceover artist, podcaster and all-around broadcasting talent. He's known professionally as Tcode, and he is with us now. Thanks so much for joining us.

TOLULOPE KOLADE: Oh, yeah. Thank you very much for having me here. It's an honor to be here.

MARTIN: Well, thanks for that. Help us get a little perspective on advertising in Nigeria. It's Africa's largest economy. There's a population of over 200 million people. I think people - a lot of people are familiar with Nigeria's, you know, enormous film industry, which is called, you know, Nollywood, sometimes, you know, colloquially.

KOLADE: Yeah. Nollywood, yeah.

MARTIN: And I understand that, because I've seen you interviewed on this, that you make a living as a voiceover artist.

KOLADE: Yes.

MARTIN: So tell me - give me just some sense of it.

KOLADE: All right. So the advertising industry is broad, not just for the voice actors. It actually also has the models involved, the video editors. And, you know, many creatives feed off from the advertising industry in Nigeria. But - and it's a very big one because the entertainment space is really booming in Nigeria. Attention is coming to the country. Local companies and even international companies are finding that spotlight right now. If you look at the music scene, Afrobeats is the main thing right now. There is a lot of activities going on in the advertising space and, of course, it's one of the reasons why we're having a kind of response or reaction that we just witnessed from ARCON, which is the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria. Now, that council, that regulatory body, used to be called APCON. But regardless of the name, what they're supposed to do is to regulate the advertising industry in Nigeria to ensure that the proper adverts are used and to monitor the kind of adverts that are used - on radio, on TV, on broadcast platforms - and ensure that these follows the guidelines.

MARTIN: OK. So tell me, what's your reaction to the decision?

KOLADE: You know, personally, when I saw it at first, I thought it was a good - a very good, brilliant decision because - as it was written that - to promote local talent, which, of course, is something that everybody would applaud. However, having spoken for - with a couple of talents here in Nigeria, there are certain fears amongst voice actors. The fact that if this - as it has been done - I mean, the policy means that foreign voice actors and models cannot be used for commercials and adverts in Nigeria. What will be the consequence, or would we see a ripple effect in terms of the international markets, the international bodies, advertising bodies, deciding to do the same?

MARTIN: But I don't know - what problem is this meant to solve? Do you know? Is there one? Because one of the reasons we called you is that, No. 1, you are an award-winning voiceover artist. In fact, as I understand it, you won a competition - a Nigerian competition, the Nigeria voice acting contest. And you are a - I don't know - I would say, kind of a mentor in your field, in the sense of encouraging other people to earn a living and telling people that it is possible to earn a living from voice work in Nigeria now. So, I mean, obviously, you're at the top of your game, but what problem are they trying to solve here?

KOLADE: The base of this problem is the fact that a couple of advertisers tend to believe that the Western elements, in terms of accents or models that look, you know, Western - I'm talking about their hair or their looks, their skin color - those are things that drive target audience to buy. Now, to an extent, they may be right. But, I mean, of course, we still have that mentality, even as Black people, when we see the foreigners or the Westerners that - you know, they present to us the idea of quality. And that ideology is why some advertisers are stuck to that model. So you hear voiceovers from - that is meant for the Nigerian market, and you hear them in an American accent.

MARTIN: Is this about race and color as much as it is about accent? I mean, is this intended to sort of suggest that white people are getting advertising jobs that many people would prefer go to people who are of color? Because I actually have to say, there are white Nigerians, are there not? I mean, there are white Nigerians, and as you pointed out, Nigeria is a multilingual, multiracial, multi-religious country. So, I mean - OK, I'm pushing you here, but what's the real issue here? Is it a perception that there is a colonial - let me just be plain - is that there's a colonial mindset that says white people are preferred as the face of the country - as the face of the country's projects? Is that really the perception here or is it something else?

KOLADE: I know as a Nigerian, having lived in Nigeria all of my life, that we grew up seeing white people as the special people. And so when you see a white person around, there's a way you tend to want to treat a white person. And, you know, we grew up exposed to a lot of foreign content, especially animation, for instance. So our own idea of what an animation should sound like is heavily influenced by the white. That mentality is why, to a very large extent, people accept when it is coming from the white man. However, in the past one decade, from what I have observed as well, we have begun to celebrate and accept our own. Now, if we say we're banning the white guys from "taking our jobs," in quote, then we need to develop ourselves so much so that the local advertisers can confidently - and not by force, but by choice - decide that, oh, we will use this local talent because they're good enough. Why going outside the country?

MARTIN: But Nigeria is banning actors from taking these roles in a way that no other country is doing. That is the question. There is no regulatory body in the United States saying that Nigerians cannot play American roles.

KOLADE: Personally, I feel like, even though they have the best interest of the local talents in mind, there are better ways to get around it. Because at the end of the day, we are global talents, so we shouldn't limit how far we can go. So I'm not totally in an alliance with the fact that we are cutting off foreign talents, no. But I - personally, I am of the opinion that we, the local talents, we best express the realities of our locality. So if you're bringing an advert to Nigeria, the way I will express it as a local Nigerian talent would be more relatable to the common man on the streets than when I bring a white man. Because our realities and our experiences in life are different. In the place of who is best to play that role, we can consider the fact that the experiences and the person is closer to this locality. The person has that experience. But to cut off the international community entirely is not something that I totally support.

MARTIN: Before we let you go - is this too corny? - but can I just have a little bit of the - what? - how you won or why you won the Nigerian voice acting contest, if you remember what some of the - I just want a little bit of the flavor of...

KOLADE: OK.

MARTIN: ...How you won the top prize. May I have - what year was that, by the way?

KOLADE: That was last year, 2021.

MARTIN: 2021.

KOLADE: Yeah.

MARTIN: Is there any way you could kind of give us a little bit of that award-winning flavor?

KOLADE: Talk is cheap, but your voice can be expensive. You know, so...

MARTIN: (Laughter) I love it. I love it.

KOLADE: (Laughter) Yeah, voiceover is - yeah...

MARTIN: I love it. Tolulope Kolade is the founder of Coded Voiceovers. He's known professionally as Tcode, and as you might imagine, he's a voiceover artist, actor and a broadcast personality. Tolulope, thanks so much for joining us.

KOLADE: You're welcome. Thank you so much for having me. This was a pleasure talking about voiceovers with you, and I hope to, you know, sometime again, we do this. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.