By Joan Mwangi / September 12, 2018

Small businesses are tapping into Kenya’s cultural and creative heritage to generate revenue through the sale of crafts, art, jewelry, apparel and other segments of what the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) calls “creative industries”.

Creative industries range “from traditional arts and crafts, publishing, music, and visual and performing arts to more technology-intensive and services-oriented groups of activities such as film, television and radio broadcasting, new media and design,” according to  UNCTAD. These economic sectors accounted for $5 billion in world wide exports of creative goods in 2015, up from more than $2 billion in 2002. Developing economies across the African continent were responsible for $1.2 billion of the 2015 total with Eastern Africa contributing $280 million. The last available estimate for creative goods exports from  Kenya was $41 million in 2013. (Read More)

To expand the definition for our purposes, cultural heritage also includes tangible culture such as buildings, monuments and landscapes while intangible culture includes traditions, language and knowledge. Kenya’s well-developed tourism industry has begun to understandthe value of these cultural markers as has the arts community  Preservation of this element represents a way of preservation of the past and also helps tell a story, this draws people in as it helps them feel one with the past in with the rapid modernisation of the world many people feel the need to get in touch with their past or appreciate the heritage of others.

Globalization has a lot of positive attributes but can also disempower people through exploitation of cultural heritage and has also propelled the loss of individualism and self and group identity. Kenya is rich in tribal and national culture and as a country, we have a responsibility to share our deep culture with the world as in the process this will also be a way of generating revenue for SMEs.

“Kenyans deserve a Ministry of Culture and Creative Industries in order to harness national talent, monetise creativity, accelerate innovation with culture as input, develop inclusive communities and entrench the celebration diversity,” writes Professor Kimani Njogu, the founder of Twaweza Communications, a Nairobi-based organization focused on public policy, media and culture for sustainable development.

“Culture ought to be at the centre of our development agenda. It is what makes it possible for us to have bottom-up approaches to development, demand prudent use of public resources, enhance people-centred accountability systems and shift political cultures so that they are more egalitarian and inclusive. They also create wealth, minimise inequalities and enhance a sense of well-being, both of which are crucial to national stability.” (Read More)

To establish cultural heritage as a way of generating revenue to the local communities it is important to educate local communities on ways in which they can use the culture they have as a source of income such as through the sale of things like artwork, craft items or jewelry, the creation of entertainment like music and video.

A number of organizations are working to support creative industry entreprenurs and SMEs:

  • Since 2013, the Heva Fund “has invested in more than 20 creative businesses in the fashion, digital content, crafts and decor value chains.”
  • Craft Afrika “is a capacity building and training organization focused on MSMEs within the artisan and design sector.”  
  • The Artisan Alliance is “an initiative of the Aspen Global Innovators Group at the Aspen Institute, which works to unlock economic value in the artisan sector” through networking, financing, coaching and events.

A 2017 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting also identified the internet as playing an important role in the growth of creative industries by distributing creative content like video (television and film), music, books, print media and gaming to global audiences are reasonable cost to creators.  Nairobi-founded Soko has harnessed the internet and mobile technology to manage a supply chain connecting  independent artisans who make jewelery with worldwide consumers.

“Africa has no shortage of talent, and the economic potential of fostering Africa’s creative industries is immense,” writes Bolanle Austen-Peters, the founder of Terra Kulture, an art, culture, lifestyle, and educational centre in Nigeria.

“When Africa commits to bringing the creative sector to life, African art can breathe new life into the continent. Andy Warhol once famously said that “making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art”. If Africa can position itself as a global centre for creative arts, individual creatives and entire economies will prosper.” (Read More)


About the author

Joan Mwangi

Joan Mwangi

Joan is a Business Analyst within the BlueInventure Service Delivery and Projects team, which provides growth strategy and innovation advisory to entrepreneurs.


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