Globally, the creative economy is considered a cornerstone
to economic growth. Creative economies emphasize on creativity, originality and
the abilities of the creatives. It presents an opportunity for the youth to positively
contribute to the economy. The roots of Kenya’s creative economy can be traced
to the country’s rich culture. This has over the years slowly metamorphosed
with the introduction of an alternative communication medium; electronic media
and now social media. Kenya’s cultural diversity is further evidenced by the
growth of vernacular television and radio stations. Creative economies spread
across different industries such as culture and heritage, design, arts and
crafts, literature, music, gaming, radio, television, performing arts, visual
arts, architecture, interior design and museums, fashion and technology.

Following a comprehensive study on cultural and creative
industry, it was established that in the year 2013, the global creative economy
generated close to US$ 2,250 billion in revenue, which is equivalent to 3% of
the global GDP. It also provided jobs to more than 29.3 million people in the
same year, out of which television and visual arts accounted for about 39% of
the revenues and 35% of total employment. Books and performing arts contributed
12% 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 pacific
emerged as the world’s largest market of creative industry products, taking
approximately 33% of the global revenues and 43% of jobs. It was followed by
Europe with 32% contribution to the revenue and 26% contribution to the jobs
market. 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 Middle
East accounts for only 3% of the revenue and 8% of the total jobs, an
indication of a less developed industry due to emphasis on traditional sectors
such as agriculture, manufacturing and tourism.

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Kenya has put in place policy and institutional initiatives
that can propel the creative economy; this includes laws that protect intellectual
property rights, Kenya’s national policy on culture and heritage, a liberalized
information and communication sector which has witnessed the growth of
broadcasters 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 television
broadcasters to provide 40% local content with the aim of increasing to 60% as
provided by the country’s Programming Code, and the promotion of performing arts
amongst youth through Kenya National Music Festivals and Kenya National Drama
Festivals organized by the Ministry of Education provide opportunities for
students 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 adornment
aimed at contributing to economic development of communities. The policy also
calls 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 for
the establishment of an advisory National Council of Culture and Heritage and
Community Culture Centers which are yet to be actualized. Further, despite the
annual Kenya National Music and Drama festivals, it is rare to see the talent
being nurtured effectively.

With Kenya currently
experiencing a youthful demography, it is critical to nurture the creative
economy to benefit the youth. In Kenya, 60% of the population is made of the
youth. They are energetic, creative and socially connected through social
media, mobile telephony and the internet. As per the Communications Authority
of Kenya, there are about 40.2 million mobile subscribers and 29.6 million
internet subscribers. According to the 2009 Population Census, the greater
population of the Kenyan youth who are not full time students are either
inactive, unemployed or employed in low quality jobs. It is estimated that 12% of
the population is unemployed, 70% of which are the youth. Worse still, about
800,000 of them graduating from training institutions are entering the job
market annually. Therefore, as a matter of urgency, there is need to involve
them in income generating activities for self-sustainability and economic
growth. Rightly harnessed, the creative economy can be used to fill this youth
unemployment gap.

Focusing on specific
segments of creative economies in Kenya, the film industry is budding and is
being emphasized by the government as a frontier in youth employment. Growth in
technological innovation has enabled the industry to thrive. As at 2012, it was
estimated 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 the
digital content and combating piracy. The government is, however, stepping up its
effort as established in the Copyright Amendment Act (2017) which obligates
internet service providers to take down content that is reported to be
infringing a person’s copyright.

Despite the potential
of the Kenyan entertainment and media segment, its performance is still below
par, with revenues of about US$ 3.6 billion and employment level of about 8,500
people as at 2013. Music is still underperforming, with revenue largely generated
from ring backs and ringtones. In 2016, it managed about US$ 20 million with a
5.8% growth rate. Television, publishing and radio depend on advertising to
generate their revenue, otherwise their mainstream mandate remains untapped.
This segment is slowed down by issues concerning royalty collection and onward
payment to artists with governance challenges within collection management
agencies. Piracy is another challenge which curtails the growth of the creative
industry. The creative industry is also challenged with low wages and poor
recognition. Well known entertainment personalities have over the years “died
poor”.

The Kenyan fashion
industry has deteriorated from a bright past with about 200,000 farmers dealing
in cotton farming, 20 ginneries and about 70 mills. In around 1980s, the sector
contributed 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 than
locally produced clothing. As at 2014, the fashion industry contributed about
0.6% GDP, 6% to the manufacturing sector and about 7% of export earnings. The industry
prides of more than 200 medium and big companies and more than 75,000 small and
micro enterprises.

Kenya is blessed with rich
cultural diversity which has influence in several different social and economic
sectors. Article 11 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 appreciates the significance
of culture and heritage and gives the state a duty of promoting cultural
expression through art, literature and traditional celebrations. With more than
42 ethnic groupings with diverse cultural practices, some ethnic groups such as
the Maasai derive a living from cultural activities such as traditional dances
and cultural artifacts, particularly beadwork. According to the Kenya National
Bureau of Statistics, museums, historical sites and amusement activities employ
about 7,000 people with a potential to expand. Traditional medicine has been
part and parcel of different cultures across the country but not medically
recognized. This has, however, changed more recently as the government enacted
the 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 of
traditional medicines, and mandates the Cabinet Secretary to develop
regulations for the documentation of traditional medicines and database of
herbalists.

That notwithstanding, the
creative economy is riddled with challenges such as inability to access
adequate financing. Funding of small businesses is a major challenge not only
in Kenya but also in most developing nations. The creative industry in Kenya is
largely composed of small enterprises, hence the challenge of accessing credit
for expansion. Lending institutions consider small businesses risky due to lack
of collateral and proper records of account, thus fear the possibility of
repayment default. With respect to creative industry, lack of “assets” to utilize
as collateral is an additional challenge.

Copyrights infer upon
the owners a right to produce, reproduce, sell, communicate, hire and
distribute artistic works. However, piracy is threatening the industry. For
instance, the music industry suffers a 98% piracy rate and the film industry 95%,
according to the Kenya Copyright Board. The Kenya Publishers’ Association
estimates that the Kenya book publishing industry loses about US$ 2 million on
a yearly basis. It is alleged that sometimes pirates hit the market even before
the original copy hits the market, hence demotivating local artists.

This therefore calls
for a deliberate interventions to lift industries within the circles of the creative
economy into achieving their potential. Key among them is to deter piracy. The
war on copyright infringement should be taken a notch higher with heighted
awareness and improved implementation of the laws relating to copyright
infringement. Currently, the Copyright Act imposes a maximum penalty of a fine
not exceeding Ksh 800,000 or an imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or both,
which is clearly not an effective deterrent. Enforcement challenges further
impede copyright protection. The consumer can play an important role in
providing to the Copyright Board and Kenya Police relevant information. The
Kenya Copyright Board should therefore partner with other stakeholders to
increase surveillance on copyrighted materials and apprehend those responsible
with piracy.

To address the
challenges of inadequate access to finance for expansion, there is need for
financial institutions to design mechanisms specifically for supporting small
enterprises. This is especially critical given intellectual property rights are
as an established collateral that can be considered for credit facilities by
the Movable Property Security Rights Act (2017). Alternative financing avenues such
as 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 the
National Music and Drama Festivals. Students can for instance be facilitated to
have a theatrical production which is open to the public. This would expose the
creative youth to the possibilities of earning a living from performing arts. This
would call for promotion and infrastructural support from the National and County
governments, including the development of county theatres and cultural centers.
To further nurture the creative economy, there is need to empower the youth
with skills and attitudes to enable them to contribute socially or economically
or both.

County cultural
festivals further offer an opportunity for showcasing culture and creativity at
the community level and should also be nurtured. To this extent, communities,
the government and other stakeholders are called upon to collaborate in
developing platforms to show case Kenya’s robust cultural heritage that can
attract tourists as well as establish market opportunities for cultural
products.

For these products to
access local, regional and international markets, however, it is important that
local cultural artists endeavor to better the quality of their creative
products and services to compete effectively. In addition, due to their density
in networking and interacting people, cities need to be positioned as hubs for
creativity and innovation.