We should take orange economy more seriously

I am sure when most of you read “orange economy", you think it's about ODM’s economic or political ideology. You are wrong.

If it will make you feel better, I too hadn’t heard about it until my niece went to Colombia to attend an orange economy meeting.

The current President of Colombia Ivan Duque Marquez and his campaign manager Felipe Buitrage Restrepo wrote a book called The Orange Economy.

The orange economy includes all the sectors of the economy whose goods and services are based on intellectual property: Advertising, architecture, crafts, design, fashion, film, games and toys, music, publishing, research and development, software, TV and radio, video games, visual and performing arts.

He wrote that the orange economy encompasses the immense wealth of talent, intellectual property, interconnectedness and, of course, cultural heritage of the Latin American and Caribbean region and indeed, every region.’’

He promised to make the Orange Economy the centre of his policies. When he won the the election, he immediately appointed his co-author Minister for the Orange Economy.

Duque noted that the orange economy contributed 6.1 per cent of the world's economy in 2005. By 2011 this value was estimated at $4.3 trillion, that is 20 per cent larger than Germany’s economy, Europe’s largest economy.

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It is growing faster than the military spending worldwide. According to  United Nations Conference on Trade and Development it grew by 134 per cent between 2002 and 2011.  

Kenyans have been supportive and appreciative of their cultural heritage and the creative arts, but do not have a promotional strategy. We have not appreciated the potential economic contribution of the orange economy.


Today, Kenyans watch Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood movies and music. Millions of Kenyans watch American movies, tear-jerking Indian and Nigerian movies. Unknowingly, we spend millions of shillings, thus boosting entertainment industries and jobs in these countries.

 It is estimated that Nollywood, the Nigerian Film Industry, generates $590 million every year. President Jonathan Goodluck set up a $200 million fund to promote this industry. How about creating such jobs here? Can't we afford it?

We have given more to the sugar and coffee industries with little to show for it. It is time we invested in our creative youths. These industries in India and Nigeria did not happen by accident. They were promoted.

Scanad is an advertising firm and one of the most profitable companies in Kenya. It sells intellectual capital, it is part of the orange economy, yet when companies are mentioned only firms like Sasini, Mumia’s and KCC come to our minds.

Today, Tanzanian music dominates our airwaves. Diamond has become a national phenomenon in both Kenya and Tanzania. He has even set up his own studio called Wasafi and has produced a bevy of new stars like Nandi and Bosso.

Singer Akothee

Meanwhile in Kenya, local talent is begging for recognition. Following in the footsteps of Diamond, our own star singer Akothee has started promoting a new set of singers. If only more stars would join hands to promote other talent. Unfortunately in this business it is rare to see other stars supporting aspiring competitors.

This is where government should come in and play the incubator role. In late 2016 a young Kenyan called Daudi Anguka won an Africa award in Lagos for his videography but could not find work or support afterwards.

I finally gave him a temporary job during the 2017 campaign. Can you imagine a young man winning an All Europe award and failing to find work? This is how we lose opportunities as a country.  

Zanzibar has recognised and utilised the power of culture. They have the Zanzibar International Film Festival, a Taarab festival that promotes local music and fashion by giving designers a forum to  showcase their work. Nairobi has the Koroga festival where thousands congregate to appreciate music.

However, Lamu remains the leader. It has a number of cultural festivals including a yoga festival! What does Lamu have to do with yoga? Amazingly thousands go for the festival, creating jobs and revenues for Lamu. Mombasa needs to do the same to try and reverse its declining fortunes.

The Government has attempted to protect our artists. There is good effort to protect the copyrights of artists and collect royalties for them.

This has helped struggling artists. But the Government should do more and help upcoming artists. County governments should also do the same.

Promoting such talent will have a huge positive impact on the youth. It will help the earn and at the same time compete with the western peers.

The Government help grow talent by making corporate contribution to the orange economy tax deductible. It is time we take our talent seriously.

Mr Shahbal is Chairman of Gulf Group of Companies [email protected]

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Orange EconomyColombiaIvan Duque Marquez