As someone who is so passionate about the arts- and crafts in particular- it baffles me that it has taken so long to initiate a policy paper on the creative and cultural industry.
This is an industry that has massive potential for employment creation, national cohesion, social inclusion, foreign exchange, cultural regeneration- the list is endless.
So why is it that we are not giving these industries due attention? I have to be quick to add that this seeming lack of interest is not unique to Kenya- many developing countries around the world are struggling to identify and harness their potential.
We recently hosted a sector (crafts) focus group during an industry mapping process facilitated by the The Kenya ICT board and carried out by an IBM CSC team. Reading through the just released proposal document, it occurred to me that the most important recommendation put forward was “to raise the profile and increase recognition of the creative industries” (theme 1), and to achieve this through “public declaration of support of arts and creative industries sector as a key contributor to Kenya’s economic development and Vision 2030”.
The reason i think it all starts from here is because our political system is still recovering from decades of top down leadership- which means that a public declaration is sometimes all you need to set the ball rolling. Couple this with a willingness to “implement government policies that support creative industry growth and its measurement” (theme 2), and you score a home run. Everything else will fall into place. Does it sound too simplistic? I dare say no- because the truth of the matter is, we (as practitioners in the industry) have been making inroads in the industry- showcasing at international fashion shows, creating world class games, gunning for top film awards- without this kind of public support anyway. In other words, i believe that if the creative/cultural industry was made a priority sector, Vision 2030’s goal of maintaining a sustained economic growth of 10% per year from 2012 and beyond is achievable. Forget the oil and other mineral reserves lying undiscovered in Lokichoggio or some such place. We have a resource that is as much a part of us as is our very being- our creative and cultural heritage. It is a resource that can never be depleted no matter how much we exploit it. And it is a great equalizer- no nation on earth can claim monopoly. We all have it- and may i go on to add- Kenya and Africa as a whole has trillions of tonnes in reserve. Create the necessary support structures, and watch the industry take off.
Interested in the full Creative Industry Roadmap? Access the full document here.