Kenyans urged to tap into creative industry

September 16, 2009
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 16 – Both the public and private sector stand to benefit from using and partnering with the creative industry for economic growth.

Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) Chairman, Eng Patrick Obath said on Tuesday that the engagement between the business community and the arts needs to move from philanthropy to profit-oriented business. 

“That paradigm shift will create opportunity for the creative industry to be mainstreamed as part of business rather than something that business throws money at,” explained Mr Obath. “We need to move from corporate social responsibility to the more modern way of doing things referred to as corporate social investment.”

Speaking at a media briefing on an upcoming series of public lectures to initiate dialogue between business and the creative industries, being organised by Strathmore Business School, Mr Obath also challenged the creative industry to begin churning out products and ideas that both the private and public sector can spend on for profitability.

He cited Malaysia’s branding slogan and campaign as a good example of the synergy that can be created if the public sector tapped into a given country’s art and culture and he urged the Brand Kenya initiative to ‘plug’ into the innovations of the country\’s creative industries.

“We’re struggling as a country to define ourselves as a brand and we can borrow a leaf from Malaysia who have an enduring specific message that I saw for the first time in 1994; the ‘Malaysia truly Asia’ concept has been ‘jigged’ to go with the times.”

At the same forum, Prof Kimani Njogu, a linguistic and cultural theorist, said greater discourse with the creative industry will provide the government with an opportunity to think more systematically about intellectual property and to protect and stimulate home grown innovations.

“The cultural economy is viewed in terms of museums and archives but we need to move away from the concept of cultural economy to creative economy,” Prof Njogu explained. “Creative business brings in intellectual property rights, advertising, film and ties in a certain dynamism that is not ethnographic or what has been brought from the past.”

Prof Njogu said part of the challenge is that creative industries do not fall within the traditional definition of economic facilitators.

Taking tourism as an example, Prof Njogu appreciated the industry’s huge potential as an engine of development; he however lamented the scope of marketing it has been accorded. He said: “Imagine a situation where every part of this country is marketed as a tourist destination because we have integrated creativity and our heritage.”

Like in the developed world, Prof Njogu spoke about the development of a creative town which would be a place where people in the arts converge. “A town that is not artificial but a place where innovators go to; that if I wanted to know about the new innovations in the country, the new thinking, that is where I would go.” 

He said the conversations that will be taking place at the Strathmore University for the next eight months will create an opportunity for young people to see the openings offered by this new industry discourse which will bring together practitioners in the creative industry as well as the private sector and intellectuals.

 “Without apportioning blame there have been constraints from the understanding of the concept, the nature of the industry in terms of the practitioners as well as government’s narrow view of how wealth is created,” the don elucidated.

“Greater discourse with the creative industry will provide the government with an opportunity to think more systematically about intellectual property to protect and stimulate home grown innovations,” added Prof Njogu.

He said the public lecture series will also provide a chance to dispel the view that it is only through industrialisation in the traditional sense that Kenya can move forward.

Eng Obath said the government also has a role to play in facilitating this engagement by strengthening legislation through dialogue with the industry players to plug the loopholes that hampered the sectors growth.

The series of lectures are being organised by the Strathmore Business School with support from the British Council and the Ford Foundation.

Eva Kiiru, Project & Communications Manager at the British Council said the Council will bring to the table knowledge and experiences from the creative sector in the United Kingdom in a bid to support culture and education in Kenya.

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