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County keen on private, public partnerships to commercialize creative talent

Nakuru County government is committed to doubling the growth of creative industries through private and public sector partnerships aimed at improving infrastructure and capacity to commercialize creative talent to enable artists reap vast fortunes.

The devolved unit has also signaled its plans to use creative industries as a distinct tourism marketing vehicle geared to promoting the County’s unique cultural identity and visibility.

County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Trade, Tourism, and Cooperatives Mr Stephen Muiruri noted that since culture and the creative industry are intertwined, there is a great scope to position the latter as a pillar of the devolved unit’s tourism sector.

He observed that globally, creative industries have been boosting economies adding that Kenya should stop being marketed as a ‘consuming and filming destination’ but as ‘a production destination.’

Muiruri indicated that for the country’s creative economy to take off and remain a sustainable industry generating employment and economic output, Kenyans must be the primary consumers and beneficiaries.

“Kenyans are heavy consumers of Mexican soaps and Nigerian movies. It is time both levels of government channeled more investments towards research in creative industries in order to quantify their true value. Decision making about arts and culture by leaders should be more serious. We must begin encouraging local creative industries by opening distribution channels and ensuring that creators get their full dues,” stated Muiruri.

The CECM noted that consumption of Bollywood and Nollywood movies globally is reshaping the economies of India and Nigeria respectively and added that since Kenya relies heavily on tourism as a source of wealth and revenue, there was a need to do more to build strong synergies between the tourism sector and the creative economy.

“The creative industry encompasses a diverse repertoire cutting across music, drama, literature, audiovisual and visual arts, architecture and other artistic and cultural expressions. The creative economy, therefore, requires new modes of thinking to appreciate and invest in its value. While our economic development is seemingly focused on the ‘traditional’ factors of production-land, labour and capital- the creative economy is premised on individual and group creativity.”

He expressed regret that for too long, culture and arts have been made marginal to national development due to conservative attitudes of what they entail.

“If you have watched the Kenya Schools Drama Festival, you will understand the unexploited potential that we have. Many of the pupils will dissipate into abject poverty or at best go to college to take careers their parents have chosen, only to tarmac later with concealed talent.

“Our failure to develop the creative-economy value chain is hurting. Global content giants are taking advantage of our irrational behaviour, and have started to archive our own cultural material such that in the future we shall buy it from them. At the minimum, we should build digital libraries of our cultural heritage,” he added.

Whilst speaking after holding deliberations with stakeholders of the creative industry in his office at the County headquarters, Muiruri indicated that workers in creative industries were yearning for greater commitment to promoting culture and creative industries.

“Besides the performing arts, visual arts and cultural heritage, Kenyans are producing films, videos, television and radio shows, video games, music and books. There is important work being undertaken in graphic design, fashion and advertising sub-sectors. These creative activities need to be anchored in political and governmental commitment and concrete support,” he noted.

While pledging that the devolved unit’s administration would formulate a policy to provide a framework that will create an enabling environment for the culture and the creative industry to thrive, Muiruri noted that Article 11 of the Constitution identified culture as the foundation of the nation and the cumulative civilization of the Kenyan people and nation.

The CECM indicated that the creative industries have been growing and contributing at least 7 per cent to the economy.

“They are expanding and creating many employment opportunities for the youth. They are also core to the celebration of our diversity and aspirations. This is why the county government is taking culture and the arts seriously,” he said.

Muiruri noted that Kenya is bound by international conventions adding that the UNESCO General Conference in 2005 adopted the Convention on the Promotion and Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, endorsed by the UN General Assembly.

By Jane Ngugi


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