Nigeria has taken a bold step to become the first country in the world to ban foreign models and voice actors in its ads. Set to go into effect on October 1st (Nigerian Independence Day), its goal is to promote and represent the talent of the country’s native population — as well as a “first step toward allowing African history and stories to be told by its people.”

This move has received mixed reactions. 

Supporters of this movement are praising the government for a “long overdue” measure that would see the predominately white, non-Nigerian models and British voice artists so prevalent in Nigerian media be replaced by people who look and sound like their fellow countrymen.

Tolulope Kolade, founder of a Nigerian voiceover talent firm, said “We, the local talent, we best express the realities of our locality.” And with a country of over 200 million people, that’s really what it comes down to. It’s about creating the opportunity for Nigerians to represent Nigeria.

Those against the ruling have accused the Nigerian government of being xenophobic and discriminatory and have seized on the idea that it’s a blanket ban against white people in general. With headlines like “Nigeria bans white models in adverts,” it’s not surprising that people jumped to the wrong conclusions.

Does this mean they’ll never see a white face or hear a British accent on their television screens again? No. As Nigerian novelist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani points out in this article, there are a lot of white women married to Nigerian men or Nigerian-born people with British or American accents. This ruling “cannont prevent these bona fide citizens of Nigeria from being featured in commercials, irrespective of the coulor of their skin.”

Even with this caveat, it’s likely they’re going to start seeing more accurate representation. And honestly, it’s needed. Equality won’t be handed over; it’s not something that will be freely given by peoples and industries who have long-held positions of supremacy. Nigeria is claiming its power and taking actionable steps to assert itself and its citizens as leaders in the larger global economy. They’re not asking – they’re taking.

Tell us what you think. Do you think more African countries should follow Nigeria’s lead? Would you agree that we cannot and should not wait to “be allowed” to be leaders on the world stage? How do you think the Nigerian economy and morale will improve over time? Leave a comment below.