The creative industry in Africa is one that, in the not-too-distant past, was not adequately harnessed. This is just like the amethyst geode which can pass for any other big piece of stone when judged by the outward appearance. It is interesting to note that within this seemingly ordinary stone lies a big mass of the gem, amethyst. This had been the case for the creative industry in this part of the world as it was grossly overlooked until recently.
Many governments that could have helped to stimulate the industry in Africa were blind to its potential because they only focused on mineral and natural resources that they could easily export in exchange for some hard currency. But things have changed. Now, even the blind can see what great light the creative industry represents to the continent.
As Africans are becoming more aware of the many potentials in the creative industry, stakeholders like the Creative Africa Exchange (CAX), in partnership with Afreximbank, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Finance Corporation (AFC) and others, through consolidated efforts, are doing everything to move the industry to another level.
The Nigerian movie industry, popularly known as Nollywood, for instance, experienced a major revolution. It has moved from the cliché and stale scripts it was otherwise known for, to out-of-the-norm masterpieces. Little wonder some of its productions have become box office favourites and cinema sellouts. Investors are becoming more interested in Nollywood and more money is going into movie production than ever before. More importantly, the returns have been massive. Nollywood has grown into a multi-million dollar industry providing direct employment to about 300,000 people and indirect employment to over a million other persons.
In East Africa, Kenya has been collaborating with other African countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana, Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, Tanzania, Botswana and even non-African countries like the US, UK and Italy by exporting her creative goods to them. In fact, she is among the top 10 export partners of Botswana and Ethiopia.
Rwandan music and film companies are moving past the challenges and expanding sales to reach international markets. Today, Rwanda has one of the highest GDP growth rates in Africa. More so, she is blazing the trail in commendable ways and worthy of note is the finalised ‘Five-year Strategic Plan for the Development of Creative Industries 2017-2020’. This will go a long way towards driving remarkable growth to the creative industry in Rwanda and beyond.
More generally, exports of creative goods in developing countries more than tripled in 2002 – 2015 with a high jump from $84 billion to $265 billion. This further proves the aforementioned point that there is great potential in the creative industry.
Africa is brimming with talents and creatives in different strata including fashion design, creative writing, photography, modelling, painting, sculpture, cinematography, movie production and graphics; but the African environment and its limiting factors made it difficult for these to thrive and reach full potential before now. The lack of adequate protection for intellectual property also poses a major challenge and brings a reduction to profit expected.
CAX’s effort to harmonise and unite the different creative industries across Africa is very commendable, as the programme is giving creatives in Africa hope that they can actually be part of something really big on the African continent. CAX WKND, one of CAX’s flagship programmes will be holding from January 16 to 18, 2020 in Kigali, Rwanda, and some of the critical challenges African creatives face will be analysed by experts from across the world, with a view to proffering lasting solutions to same.