FERDY ADIMEFE: I work with Africa’s brightest minds

Ferdy Ladi Adimefe is a film maker and creative entrepreneur who has spent the last five years building an ecosystem of companies within the media, entertainment and technology space. In this interview with Yetunde Oladeinde, he talks about focusing on games, animation, storytelling, his first book on campus and more.

Let’s talk about the things you do and working in the digital space?

Imaginarium Creative is a creative technology company powering incubation to develop viable products that can solve Africa’s 21st century problem and create jobs. There are also magic carpet studios, a fast growing innovation storytelling company, focused on animation and games. There is IDA, a digital design agency focused on building modern brands and helping brands connect to the biggest spending market segment.  I also seat on the board of Slum to School, the electoral college and The Tribe Assembly.

Tell us about your career path and how you became a successful entrepreneur.

I started my career in advertising as a copy writer. It was a discovery phase for me, because I realized that there was just so much that was possible. I fell in love with strategy and was eventually moved to strategy. It was at this time I heard about the school of media and communications, so I enrolled. For me, it wasn’t really about a degree, it was about expanding my understanding of the world, and how I saw the world. I honestly gained a lot from my master’s program. After the program, I worked as a communications executive and left as the brand and communications manager of that company five years later. After that I began my entrepreneurial journey. It has been an interesting adventure ever since.

What does a typical day look like for you as CEO of Imaginarium Creative Global Limited?

A typical day for me is a quest. I work with some of Africa’s brightest minds and talented people. We see every day as an opportunity to create stories or products. We are very developmental as a company and that for me is its own reward, we constantly seek growth in every way. We believe that there are endless possibilities unfolding every moment. It can get a little unpredictable, but every adventure or misadventure is a discovery. I can go from a product launch to a story review session to crafting a campaign for brand all on one afternoon.

Your first book was about campus living and values among youths. What is your advice to students living on campus and the values they should imbibe?

I think we can easily get fixated on the fact that campus is about obtaining a degree, but it is more than that. It is about practicing how to live in the real world, it is about expanding your thinking, revisiting your biases and allowing yourself to venture into unchartered territories of interest and knowledge. It is about learning to become a global mind and a global citizen. It is about learning to create, solve problems and contribute in every way, after you have gotten these things then add the degree to it and you will be unstoppable.

How does your work impact the youths in Nigeria? Do you have any youth initiatives going on?

Across my various spheres of influence, either through my companies or the faith-based movement I lead. I have been privileged to encourage and inspire people within the median age of 22 or 25. I believe every young person needs to be taught how to think and not just what to think. My work is about consciousness, propagating awareness and inviting people to discover within them a worthiness and belovedness that is essential for creativity to thrive.

Tell us about your family life?

I am married to a very lovely woman, Lily Adimefe who is also an alumni here. We have three boys and that’s hopefully the wrap. Our home is fun and playful. We are also confronting the challenges of two working class parents trying to raise three kids, navigating traffic and juggling ways to keep a beautiful and balanced life, is an on-going conversation. But my family is my escape from the world, I am glad to have it that way.

How do you keep up with your work and family life?

Being intentional. Things can easily creep up on your schedule or demand more of your time. I make my decision about life and then allow my work to revolve around that.

How has your schooling in SMC impacted your career and family life?

It really did impact me in very significant ways. It expanded my options and in fact my decision to become an entrepreneur was born out of that. I mentioned in media enterprise, I developed a deeper sense of self-awareness that allowed me see my innate sense of restlessness as a gift. It wasn’t about staying within a segment, but finding ways to create using different tools, moving from skill to thinking strategically did a huge leap for me.

And: You can succeed in life without sleeping with a man!

What are the qualities you seek in young people and prospective employees?

A sense of curiosity and adventure is important; because without that you won’t let creativity take you places. Once people have embraced their sense of freedom, only then can they give themselves the permission to try, to discover, and to also hold space for others to also grow and discover as well. I strongly value character and discipline, without it the creative spirit will never birth, and only produce still born projects. Lastly I look for a mind that embraces possibilities.

Fermy Adimefe

What three books would we find on your bookshelf at home?

The alchemist was a magical one. The black boy by Richard Wright. The bible for me sounds trite, but I think it is one of the best metaphysical resources out there, with a right lens of interpretation one will uncover ancient principles for life.

Was it easy at the beginning?

I had interest in story telling but there was no capital at the time. I had to establish a hybrid model and we were offering services to agencies doing things  for organizations like banks and we got funds to buy more computers , train more people and literarily there was nothing left, everything was reinvested. At a point, we realized that we had to get our documentation done. We had to get a professional consultant. It wasn’t cheap but at this point we could afford it.

The consultant had to work with us to get the business model together with everything that we needed. Also there is a suspicion here in Africa about the creative industry. It is not said in the open but you can see this in the conversations. But again, this is a multi-million dollar industry anywhere in the world. So, why should it be different in Africa? If the movie is a multi-billion industry in the world, why should it be different for us? If artist can sustain themselves, if writers can make money from their works, why is it different for us? We can do the same in Africa, sell our content but again piracy is high. We need to address and advocate for policies that can value our works and what we do we need to unlock the great economy and access capital. There is also the need for us to have structured capital that is peculiar for the great industry. That is designed for the creative sector and we need to derisk that capital , understand the gestation period , understand that you have to establish ecosystems for communities, have a community of creative’s  then begin to talk about taxes, access to finance, markets and the other issues that affect us.

What are the challenges working in the sector?

The cost of training is expensive.  Even to get desktops or laptops for training runs into millions and the infrastructure has to be right. We believe that African can create something that is remarkable like we have with Disney and other parts of the world. So, let’s start thinking of exporting the best of us and contribute to the global economy. We started in 2017 and this is where we are. Our mission is to put Africa on the map. The global animation market is worth 259 billion  US dollars and we are making  less than one per cent of that number.  Based on the population we have in the world, there is no reason why our contribution should not be more than this. The big question now is how we expand our markets. We should get amazing people in Africa who are doing amazing work as well as get consistent infrastructure to scale up the sector.

Many of us have to start to see ourselves differently. Most times, we define ourselves through the colonial era. Africans have a lot of stigmatisation and issues around the colonial Masters. But the question we need to ask ourselves is what if Africa was never colonised. We should start to see ourselves as empowered, not as victims of history. The other question I want to ask is what if Africa colonised the world.  I actually think that Africa colonised the world.  Every music has its footprints in Africa. Jazz, hip hop and Soul.  The first university in the world is in Africa.  The third question I would ask is if we can call it a world if Africa is missing in it. It won’t be a world. But Africa is missing in creating an economic map globally and yet we have the potentials. We have the raw materials, talents, skills and other ingredients. The fourth question for me is what state would an uncolonised Africa be like. Somehow, along the line, we still think civilisation is westernisation. But, westernization and civilisation is not the same thing. Civilisation is authentic to you and we need to export the best of us. In your primary school, if you speak your native language, they would say don’t speak vernacular. But therein lies our rich culture, parables, ancient wisdom, proverbs, wit and traditions. They are so rich and apt for storytelling.

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