Globally, the creative economy is considered a cornerstoneto economic growth. Creative economies emphasize on creativity, originality andthe abilities of the creatives. It presents an opportunity for the youth to positivelycontribute to the economy.

The roots of Kenya’s creative economy can be tracedto the country’s rich culture. This has over the years slowly metamorphosedwith the introduction of an alternative communication medium; electronic mediaand now social media. Kenya’s cultural diversity is further evidenced by thegrowth of vernacular television and radio stations.

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Creative economies spreadacross different industries such as culture and heritage, design, arts andcrafts, literature, music, gaming, radio, television, performing arts, visualarts, architecture, interior design and museums, fashion and technology. Following a comprehensive study on cultural and creativeindustry, it was established that in the year 2013, the global creative economygenerated close to US$ 2,250 billion in revenue, which is equivalent to 3% ofthe global GDP. It also provided jobs to more than 29.

3 million people in thesame year, out of which television and visual arts accounted for about 39% ofthe revenues and 35% of total employment. Books and performing arts contributed12% to total revenue and 24% of jobs whereas music and movies accounted for 6.3%of the revenues and 22% of employment. In the same year 2013, Asia pacificemerged as the world’s largest market of creative industry products, takingapproximately 33% of the global revenues and 43% of jobs. It was followed byEurope with 32% contribution to the revenue and 26% contribution to the jobsmarket.

North America came in third with 28% contribution to the revenue and 16%of the total jobs. The cultural and creative industry in Africa and the MiddleEast accounts for only 3% of the revenue and 8% of the total jobs, anindication of a less developed industry due to emphasis on traditional sectorssuch as agriculture, manufacturing and tourism. Kenya has put in place policy and institutional initiativesthat can propel the creative economy; this includes laws that protect intellectualproperty rights, Kenya’s national policy on culture and heritage, a liberalizedinformation and communication sector which has witnessed the growth ofbroadcasters including vernacular stations, high internet penetration(estimated at 100.2% as at end of June 2017) and high mobile phone penetration(88.7%).

In addition, access to technology, requirements for televisionbroadcasters to provide 40% local content with the aim of increasing to 60% asprovided by the country’s Programming Code, and the promotion of performing artsamongst youth through Kenya National Music Festivals and Kenya National DramaFestivals organized by the Ministry of Education provide opportunities forstudents to showcase their talent nationally. Despite these regulatory and institutional developments,the creative economy is not fully exploited. The culture and heritage policy,for instance, promotes the production and use of National Attire and adornmentaimed at contributing to economic development of communities. The policy alsocalls for the teaching of visual arts at all levels of the education system,both of which have not been effectively implemented.

The policy also calls forthe establishment of an advisory National Council of Culture and Heritage andCommunity Culture Centers which are yet to be actualized. Further, despite theannual Kenya National Music and Drama festivals, it is rare to see the talentbeing nurtured effectively.With Kenya currentlyexperiencing a youthful demography, it is critical to nurture the creativeeconomy to benefit the youth. In Kenya, 60% of the population is made of theyouth. They are energetic, creative and socially connected through socialmedia, mobile telephony and the internet. As per the Communications Authorityof Kenya, there are about 40.2 million mobile subscribers and 29.6 millioninternet subscribers.

According to the 2009 Population Census, the greaterpopulation of the Kenyan youth who are not full time students are eitherinactive, unemployed or employed in low quality jobs. It is estimated that 12% ofthe population is unemployed, 70% of which are the youth. Worse still, about800,000 of them graduating from training institutions are entering the jobmarket annually.

Therefore, as a matter of urgency, there is need to involvethem in income generating activities for self-sustainability and economicgrowth. Rightly harnessed, the creative economy can be used to fill this youthunemployment gap. Focusing on specificsegments of creative economies in Kenya, the film industry is budding and isbeing emphasized by the government as a frontier in youth employment. Growth intechnological innovation has enabled the industry to thrive. As at 2012, it wasestimated to value about US$ 30 million and provided employment to about 5,000 persons.

One of the films, “Nairobi Half-Life” won two awards and four nominations.However, the industry suffers from deficient regulations on protecting thedigital content and combating piracy. The government is, however, stepping up itseffort as established in the Copyright Amendment Act (2017) which obligatesinternet service providers to take down content that is reported to beinfringing a person’s copyright. Despite the potentialof the Kenyan entertainment and media segment, its performance is still belowpar, with revenues of about US$ 3.6 billion and employment level of about 8,500people as at 2013.

Music is still underperforming, with revenue largely generatedfrom ring backs and ringtones. In 2016, it managed about US$ 20 million with a5.8% growth rate. Television, publishing and radio depend on advertising togenerate their revenue, otherwise their mainstream mandate remains untapped.This segment is slowed down by issues concerning royalty collection and onwardpayment to artists with governance challenges within collection managementagencies. Piracy is another challenge which curtails the growth of the creativeindustry.

The creative industry is also challenged with low wages and poorrecognition. Well known entertainment personalities have over the years “diedpoor”. The Kenyan fashionindustry has deteriorated from a bright past with about 200,000 farmers dealingin cotton farming, 20 ginneries and about 70 mills. In around 1980s, the sectorcontributed about 30% of total manufacturing employment in Kenya. Unfortunately,the introduction of imported second hand (mitumba)clothing killed the industry.

Imports are of better quality and cheaper thanlocally produced clothing. As at 2014, the fashion industry contributed about0.6% GDP, 6% to the manufacturing sector and about 7% of export earnings. The industryprides of more than 200 medium and big companies and more than 75,000 small andmicro enterprises. Kenya is blessed with richcultural diversity which has influence in several different social and economicsectors. Article 11 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 appreciates the significanceof culture and heritage and gives the state a duty of promoting culturalexpression through art, literature and traditional celebrations. With more than42 ethnic groupings with diverse cultural practices, some ethnic groups such asthe Maasai derive a living from cultural activities such as traditional dancesand cultural artifacts, particularly beadwork.

According to the Kenya NationalBureau of Statistics, museums, historical sites and amusement activities employabout 7,000 people with a potential to expand. Traditional medicine has beenpart and parcel of different cultures across the country but not medicallyrecognized. This has, however, changed more recently as the government enactedthe Health Act (No. 12 of 2017) which promotes the use of traditional medicine,calls for the establishment of a regulatory body to regulate the practice oftraditional medicines, and mandates the Cabinet Secretary to developregulations for the documentation of traditional medicines and database ofherbalists.That notwithstanding, thecreative economy is riddled with challenges such as inability to accessadequate financing. Funding of small businesses is a major challenge not onlyin Kenya but also in most developing nations. The creative industry in Kenya islargely composed of small enterprises, hence the challenge of accessing creditfor expansion.

Lending institutions consider small businesses risky due to lackof collateral and proper records of account, thus fear the possibility ofrepayment default. With respect to creative industry, lack of “assets” to utilizeas collateral is an additional challenge.Copyrights infer uponthe owners a right to produce, reproduce, sell, communicate, hire anddistribute artistic works. However, piracy is threatening the industry. Forinstance, the music industry suffers a 98% piracy rate and the film industry 95%,according to the Kenya Copyright Board. The Kenya Publishers’ Associationestimates that the Kenya book publishing industry loses about US$ 2 million ona yearly basis. It is alleged that sometimes pirates hit the market even beforethe original copy hits the market, hence demotivating local artists.

This therefore callsfor a deliberate interventions to lift industries within the circles of the creativeeconomy into achieving their potential. Key among them is to deter piracy. Thewar on copyright infringement should be taken a notch higher with heightedawareness and improved implementation of the laws relating to copyrightinfringement. Currently, the Copyright Act imposes a maximum penalty of a finenot exceeding Ksh 800,000 or an imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or both,which is clearly not an effective deterrent. Enforcement challenges furtherimpede copyright protection. The consumer can play an important role inproviding to the Copyright Board and Kenya Police relevant information.

TheKenya Copyright Board should therefore partner with other stakeholders toincrease surveillance on copyrighted materials and apprehend those responsiblewith piracy.To address thechallenges of inadequate access to finance for expansion, there is need forfinancial institutions to design mechanisms specifically for supporting smallenterprises. This is especially critical given intellectual property rights areas an established collateral that can be considered for credit facilities bythe Movable Property Security Rights Act (2017).

Alternative financing avenues suchas peer to peer financing and factoring may also be adopted by the industry.At the national level,efforts should be made to promote talent using existing platforms such as theNational Music and Drama Festivals. Students can for instance be facilitated tohave a theatrical production which is open to the public. This would expose thecreative youth to the possibilities of earning a living from performing arts. Thiswould call for promotion and infrastructural support from the National and Countygovernments, including the development of county theatres and cultural centers.

To further nurture the creative economy, there is need to empower the youthwith skills and attitudes to enable them to contribute socially or economicallyor both. County culturalfestivals further offer an opportunity for showcasing culture and creativity atthe community level and should also be nurtured. To this extent, communities,the government and other stakeholders are called upon to collaborate indeveloping platforms to show case Kenya’s robust cultural heritage that canattract tourists as well as establish market opportunities for culturalproducts.For these products toaccess local, regional and international markets, however, it is important thatlocal cultural artists endeavor to better the quality of their creativeproducts and services to compete effectively. In addition, due to their densityin networking and interacting people, cities need to be positioned as hubs forcreativity and innovation.