High Road to the Creative Economy

The need for government, employers and creatives to shift gears to the same place By Rand Pearson

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Image source: Google

Guys are fed up and as the days here get hotter you can feel the pressure building. Not quite yet a powder keg, but something has to be done.

It’s all about #jobs, and the new businesses struggling to supply them.

If it weren’t for just about every artist in Nairobi asking for Ezekiel Mutua’s head (see our The Wire this month), many would forget about a whole part of the economy that holds up our entire aspirations as Kenyans—our art, our stories, our ability as a whole to re-think who we are and our identity and image to the world.

The stuffy politicians from the club poolside ask, “what can the creative economy really do for us? Is it a crop that we can cut down and put on our dining table?”

Or is it something more?

Many make the mistake that the creative economy only includes a garage full of freelancers hacking from shared desks. But the scope is much broader.

The Creative Economy (CE) is about using imagination, even design thinking, to change or increase an idea’s value. In that respect, the CE is indeed synonymous with the Idea Economy—a system of collaboration and work around a concept or project. It implies a new way of working that is hyper-reliant on a highly trained and motivated workforce of freelance creators, ‘thought-producers’.

According to the term’s founder, John Howkins, the CE’s widest definition describes economic eco-systems where value is based on unique, imaginative qualities rather than the traditional resources of land, labour and capital. (Tell that to the current government.) “Compared to creative industries, which are limited to specific sectors, the term is used to describe creativity throughout a whole economy.”

Many economists in the rest of the world believe creativity is THE defining characteristic of developed economies in the 21st century, just as manufacturing framed the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Forget if you are first, second or third world—these are old, tired, colonial terms. New inequalities could now arise around how creative a country’s economy really is. As Kenya continues to plume smoke and dust in the air, others have moved on to societies built around highly creative workforces solving problems for a better world.

A U.N. report on the global creative economy states that Africa-wide, 400 million young people will enter the labour market over the next two decades; 500,000-a-year in Kenya alone.

But where are all these jobs going to come from?

Kenya would do well to invest in this sector on par with the tech economy, and especially if it wants an increasingly disenfranchised generation to support elections and governments. My prediction for the Kenya elections: lowest turn out ever by the youth.

But the government alone cannot be blamed. The private sector carries a misunderstood obligation to the growth and health of the creative economy proposition in Kenya—to its ideas and the people who make them.

And it is NOT just about advertising and sponsorship of events; it’s about being seen as a game changer. Forget selling products to people, try selling a future vision; thought leadership and foremost, direct support for creatives. If we work hard at this concept, we can sell it to boardrooms, which can then look past branding into substantive life changing platforms that directly support the very IDEA of the creative economy.

Almost everyone we speak to in the SME-entrepreneurial sector is suffering—be it lack of business growth and/or a lack of cash flow.  At the macro level we see major indicators such as overseas investment virtually dropping off the radar; real estate markets being glutted and oversubscribed; joblessness on the rise.

Again, maybe the worst affected by this Nairobi cash crunch is the creative economy, which by all accounts is at a virtual standstill. Not convinced? The Film Bill is a perfect example.  Not only is it already an unsustainable economy, but the GoK is determined to make it even worse for us.  Don’t take our word for it, just listen to what some people have to say on #StopTheFilmBill on Twitter.

Finally, the creative economy takes us to the Data Revolution where we see the onset of real game changing data initiatives. Within this we can see what the power and impact of life changing information can have on its citizenry. It can also change how we see ourselves in the economy and maybe, just maybe, the data movement can help grow the economy through new ideas and new collaborations. If we are all competing how do we collaborate? Open data and free information levels the playing field for everyone.

Get in on the conversation. info@upnairobi.com. See ya next month.

  • In 2010 we developed an idea to finance design and development of a small educational satellite by selling advertising space to Kenyan corporates that would want to be on the world’s first space-based advertising platform. To excite primary and secondary students and encourage them to love science and technology we planned to have a national satellite naming essay competition. The idea is encapsulated in this animation below: : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftBxMcTZy9w

    The government as well as the private sector in Kenya are completely unable to see the value inherent in having a civilian space program whereas the top CNN technology news yesterday was :In 2010 we developed an idea to finance design and development of a
    small educational satellite by selling advertising space to Kenyan
    corporates that would want to be on the world’s first space-based
    advertising platform. To excite primary and secondary students and
    encourage them to love science and technology we planned to have a
    national satellite naming essay competition. The idea is encapsulated in
    this animation below: : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftBxMcTZy9w

    The
    government as well as the private sector in Kenya are completely unable
    to see the value inherent in having a civilian space program whereas
    the top CNN technology news yesterday was : http://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/15/tech/girls-design-africa-space-satellite/

    In effect South Africa is active while there
    is really no hope of waking up either to the realities of 21st century
    Creative Economy as well as the possibilities of using Scientific and
    technological approaches to job creation for youth. http://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/15/tech/girls-design-africa-space-satellite/

    There is really no hope of waking up either to the realities of 21st century Creative Economy as well as the possibilities of using Scientific and technological approaches to job creation for youth.

  • Felix Tao

    (the writer of this is Rand Pearson? the subtitle is a little confusing)
    I am in full agreement with you here. would really love to have an open discussion with you if possible. I have had ideas revolving around this concept. The value of the creative industry is not appreciated, thus the product of the peoples within this field are have no value locally, really stumping the growth and development of the industry – so key to growth in general. Not to mention lucrative…though the system is also a part of the issue.