How to optimise creative economy to boost growth

Faith Adoyo. Miss University finalists wearing creative wear with messages of Peace during the 2022 General Elections. August 8, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua was recently the chief guest at the Kenya Music Festivals in Kisumu County.

In his speech, he not only accepted his newly bequeathed moniker 'Riggy G', but also affirmed the government's commitment to provide opportunities to harness the talent and creativity of young people.

This hit home just as the jobs environment is witnessing a major shift from traditional modes of employment to alternative forms of work best suited to individual interests, hobbies and passions, often in line with the creative economy.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation labels the creative economy one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy and highly transformative in terms of income generation.

Indeed, the creative economy, as noted by the Deputy President, has morphed from being solely regarded as means of leisure to earn its place as a significant and profitable means of work.

As it stands, the impact of some of these economies is noteworthy, given the recent G20 insights which portends the global valuation of creative economies to peak at $985 billion (Sh118 trillion) in 2023 and contribute 10 per cent to the overall gross domestic product by 2030.

With this in mind, how then can our own economy be poised to take full advantage of the creative industry and its pool of talented youth?

Great promise

A great start would be to effectively implement policies and regulations keen on bolstering the creative industry, with an example being the introduction of Digital Superhighway and Digital Economy by the newly government. Though its mandate is yet to be laid out, the policy shows great promise of protection and preservation of intellectual property, trademarks and copyright of artistes from exploitation.

For example, when internet platforms split revenue with creators, the latter tend to get the short end of the stick. This is not to negate the integral role internet and technology at large has played to generate new sources of income while providing platforms where artistes share their work.

It also explains why a 2019 report by World Economic Forum (WEF) indicated that digital subscription services in the music industry are set to triple on the back of growing consumer demand.

Such platforms are vital as they promote research, enable exchange of ideas and act as vehicles of growth by encouraging constructive criticism from peers and audiences alike.

More importantly, the coming together of both established and aspiring artistes, made possible by technology, provides room for mentorship, financial facilitation and creative guidance - not to mention reach into new audiences.

This in turn begs the question; how much more do we stand to gain collectively if the government were to establish physical creative hubs in various parts of the country? These centres will serve as sources of highly skilled and diverse artistes to teach and aid in preservation of indigenous art for our benefit and posterity.

Already, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja has proposed an annual Nairobi Festival to showcase the city's rich cultural heritage. This underscores the importance of an artiste at the helm of leadership as only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches most.

It was also encouraging to see DP Gachagua acknowledge successful artistes such as Charles 'Jaguar' Kanyi, Vincent 'Chipukeezy' Mwasia and Hon John 'KJ' Kiarie as they serve to encourage more participants to pursue careers in art.

Equally impressive is the government's initiative to liaise with key stakeholders in the education sector to facilitate reforms.

In his speech, Mr Gachagua urged Kenyan leaders, parents and educators to give their opinions to the taskforce put together to advise on key areas of improvement.

Perhaps this is a ripe opportunity to, first, integrate art courses into the main curriculum, which in turn enables learners to identify and polish their inherent abilities from an early age, arming them with a competitive advantage in the global market.

Secondly, increase funding to institutions of learning and art programmes to build local capacity. Better yet, invest in infrastructure by way of ensuring broad internet connectivity to enable better access to emerging local and international markets.

The creative economy has great career prospects that Kenya can leverage to sustain the livelihoods of the many talented youth and bolster the country's development goals, which will likely translate to a more productive and healthy population.

The author is a writer, playright, theatre director and educator