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Powering East Africa’s creative sector with knowledge

By Churchill Ongere, Project Manager, R.O.O.M East Africa

Across East Africa, creatives are inventing new stories and re-imagining old ones. On a daily basis, musicians, film makers, animators, fashion designers, and illustrators demonstrate one of the most unique things about human beings – our need to expressive ourselves – and to do so freely.

However, this very essential human freedom is still elusive in many contexts.

For decades, Hivos has been an ally of East Africa’s creative economy sector. We incubate innovative approaches and offer breeding grounds where artists, creatives, and change makers can blossom and reach their fullest potential. And most important, retain their criticality and independence while supporting themselves sustainably.

One of the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic – the disruption of the creative economy – has served as a wake-up call that has rallied countries to come up with inclusive recovery policies. However, amongst the many efforts to help this economy recover, a critical mainstay of creative enterprises’ sustainability remains overlooked: knowledge. As a result, under-investments in the sector are threatening its survival.

In 2021, through our Resource of Open Minds Program, we took major steps to empower East Africa’s creative economy with three essential publications for industry practitioners. The publications explore digitality, intellectual property rights, and financial management. We believe this will go a long way in unlocking the potential of the sector in the coming years.

Digital technologies

The first is a report that shows the extent to which digital technologies can be used in producing and disseminating audio-visual creative content on human rights. The report covers Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, highlighting recent developments in digital rights and how these have impacted the creative sector. Recommendations in the report call for amending policies to align them with contemporary human rights norms, especially to guarantee freedom of expression and preserve cultural heritage in both offline and online spaces.


Intellectual property

Safeguarding intellectual property rights for creatives remains an area of interest for Hivos. For this, we have developed a toolkit that spells out how creatives can better safeguard their intellectual property rights. It covers Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, listing sections of laws that are essential for creatives to know, as well as key contacts they can reach out to for strategic litigation.

Financial management

Lastly, our toolkit on financial management and sustainability for creative sector practitioners covers key steps for improving the financial health of sector practitioners. It makes recommendations on how organizations can improve their financial management systems at different levels.

Pictured above is Gado, a cartoonist most known for challenging the political elite in East Africa. He encourages younger artists not to be afraid to use their content to provoke debate and question authority by speaking truth to power.

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