Tapping into East Africa’s creative economy: the Ubunifu report

May 24, 2016

East Africa’s creative industries can massively contribute to their economies and promote freedom of expression if given ‘a little push in the right direction’ according to Hivos East Africa’s new report on the East African creative economy.

The report The Status of East Africa’s Creative Economy, launched on May 20, 2016, contains the findings of a recent study that delves into the challenges facing the sector and the opportunities that could guide the development of programmes to support creative industries.

These findings were presented alongside plenary discussions at an event that drew the attendance of educationists, policy makers, creatives, CSOs, development partners and representatives from the private sector.

Broad conversations during the event revolved around the need to stimulate growth in the sector, diversify support to creatives in the rural and peri-urban areas and facilitate peer-to-peer learning avenues amongst creatives.

Hivos East Africa’s interest in the creative industry was mapped out by Regional Director Mendi Njonjo during her opening remarks, ’’Over the years Hivos has supported Arts and Culture globally, recognizing its ability to promote social justice and economic development. We have supported over 60 creative organizations in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania that utilize creative expression for cultural activism, promotion of transparency and accountability in government and improving sustainability of the cultural sector in the region,’’ she said.

Reiterating the Kenyan government’s commitment towards arts and culture, Elizabeth Nasubo, Acting Director of the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts, said, ‘’The government is ready to engage with stakeholders to ensure that we come up with clear policies and legislative frameworks within the spirit of the East African integration process, including the domestication of the common market protocol that provides a platform for investments across the region.’’

Giving the perspective of academia’s involvement in the creative spaces, Professor Kimani Njogu spoke of the need to influence Kenya’s current education curriculum review to stimulate growth in the sector.

Hivos’ new Ubunifu Programme will borrow perspectives from the study to catalyse the growth of innovative arts and culture landscapes in East Africa. Ubunifu’s main strategy is to promote sustainability, reduce donor dependence and strengthen the social innovation capacities of a core group of creative spaces and communities in East Africa.

The implementation of the programme comes at a time when the creative sector in East Africa continues to be fragmented due to donor dependence, limited infrastructure and lack of policy prioritization and capital.

To make the industry sustainable, Ubunifu will establish a social impact investment fund with alternative financing for creative professionals at the development stages of their ventures to provide business support and market access for their products.

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