Kenya, along with the other Eastern African countries has been encouraged to prioritise the creative economy and creative industries in their national development strategies. The creative sector has the potential to create jobs and trade opportunities as well as spur innovation for the bulging youth population; this was noted by several researchers, economists and experts in different fields.
HEVA and Hivos East Africa, alongside Forum Syd, UNDP , East Africa Trade and Investment Hub held the UNCTAD14 side event titled: ‘’Creative Economy Dialogues’. These high-level series of discussions focused on the contribution of the creative economy and industries towards the achievement of equitable, inclusive and sustainable development in Kenya and East Africa.
The creative sector offers tremendous opportunities in equitable development and securing livelihoods for the youth and women through trade, financing, investment and technology. Globalization and technological advancements have greatly benefitted the creative industries in developed nations. However, according to UNCTAD’s 2008 and 2010 global reports on the creative economy, developing countries are yet to harness this burgeoning potential due to — among several reasons — lack of an enabling policy and legal environment and limited access to finances for the growth of creative businesses. The UNCTAD reports further reveal that Africa’s share of the global creative economy stands at just less than 1% only, owing to underinvestment in these industries.
Speaking during the panel discussions, Mendi Njonjo, Hivos East Africa’s regional director, said, “The creative economy and cultural industries are an inspiration towards new forms of working. These spaces (whether physical and virtual) need to be sustainable and safe in order to stimulate creative and digital activism. Since 2011, Hivos has supported over 30 creative organizations in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania with grants of 4 million euros to invest in creative expression for cultural activism, promotion of transparency and accountability in government and improvement of sustainability in the cultural sector in the region.”
According to HEVA’s Managing Partner, George Gachara, the creative sector lacks adequate commercial financing services that will enable creatives to access domestic, regional and international markets. “In order to increase the competitiveness of creative products in the domestic market, HEVA has invested purposefully in sourcing, product support and facilitating technologies to retail and market creation strategies,” he said.
In Kenya, the creative industry accounts for an estimated 5.3% of the national GDP (Kenya Copyright Board, 2013). This is equivalent to KES 182 billion of Kenya’s 3.4 trillion national GDP. With critical strategic support, the creative economy has the potential to contribute 10% of Kenya’s GDP within the next decade.
Hivos East Africa’s 2015 report on the status of the creative economy in East Africa recommended a holistic approach bringing together the government, the private sector, the media, development partners and industry players to contribute to a vibrant and creative and cultural industry in East Africa.