G20 Insights predicts that the creative economy will reach a global valuation of $985 billion by 2023 and contribute 10% to the world’s GDP by 2030. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) defines “creative economy” as the summation of all the components of the creative industries, including trade, labour, and production. It is when creativity is used to create economic growth and development.
What is Kenya’s creative economy worth?
The creative economy may be on a global upswing, but Kenya is yet to catch up. As a developing nation, Kenya sells a wide variety of creative products such as art, fashion, music, film, apps, crafts, and many others; this currently represents around 5.3% of Kenya’s GDP, according to a report by the Creative Economy Business Environment Reform. This is a significant contribution, given the challenges plaguing this industry. It is not lost on anyone that Kenya’s multi-billion-shilling industry has not yet realised its full potential. Why is Kenya struggling to keep pace with regional and global players?
The creative problem
The overarching problem is the inability of the policy environment to generate a thriving and growing creative sector capable of employing thousands of youths. Instead, policy and regulatory positions have created an unfavourable investment climate and business environment for creatives and industry stakeholders. Anecdotal research also suggests that the absence of government and general public appreciation of the local creative industry contributes to the limited uptake of creative industry goods and services. Here are some of the challenges facing this industry:
- Inadequate capital access to start-up funds is difficult due to the low-income level of many Kenyan creatives and limited access to valuable networks. Available commercial bank loans are more often out of reach because they are seen as a high-risk segment to be accorded with commercial loans.
- Insufficient entrepreneurial skills – There is a huge dearth of entrepreneurial skills in the creative industry. Many creatives only have elementary business knowledge which makes it difficult to sustain and operate thriving businesses.
- Limited industry cohesiveness and ineffective associations for collective bargaining: Kenya’s creative industry lacks cohesiveness, leadership, and engagement platforms to champion policy advocacy.
- The lack of infrastructure and institutions – There are only a limited number of institutions and organisations that equip and empower creatives with world-class skills and that provide quality infrastructure and networks.
- Insufficient understanding of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) – Within the sector, there is a lack of information and a thorough understanding of copyright laws and how creative entrepreneurs can use them to defend themselves from exploitation and their work from piracy.
- Limited market access – There is limited access to regional and global markets where creative entrepreneurs can competitively sell their products and services. Local markets are underdeveloped partly due to the lack of consumer appreciation of the arts.
What can be done?
The creative industry in Kenya could become a vital accelerator for economic growth and development if proper institutional, policy, and regulatory reforms, as well as other private sector-related reforms, are implemented. Here are some interventions that (will) mitigate the challenges:
- Build capacity and confidence among the creative workforce through creative and entrepreneurial education, skills development, and professional development. Very few institutions provide the relevant and practical skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the creative economy.
- Create and equip creative hubs and clusters, establish more crea-tech institutions and provide access to valuable networks. This will encourage information and idea-sharing with creative talent communally and nationally.
- Cultivate domestic and international markets for creative businesses. Creative entrepreneurs need access to markets across Africa and beyond in order to build sustainable businesses. Even small positive changes have the potential to create many jobs and empower a substantial number of talented Kenyans to build careers in the creative sector.
- Position Kenya’s creative industry as an essential economic driver. This will improve the public’s perception of the industry and encourage more youths to pursue creative careers.
- Improve the policy and regulatory landscape, including government funding of creative initiatives and productions to aid in the creation of a favourable investment climate and commercial operating environment for the creative industry.
Kenya is, without a doubt, East Africa’s economic and creative economy powerhouse. With consistent support and favourable government policies, Kenya’s creative industry is well-positioned to be a vital economic driver and an attractive career choice for many.