When it comes to creating jobs and economic opportunity in Africa, industries such as agriculture, mining and oil typically receive the most attention and investment from governments.
However, the cultural and creative industries are consistently overlooked as viable avenues for economic growth. These industries include food, film, fashion, textiles, literature, music, performing/visual arts, museums and more.
Africa is no exception to the massive potential benefits that these industries could yield. The recent worldwide growth of tourism serves to further generate increased exposure and outside interest as well.
Further, the labor-intensive aspect of the creative industries offers an opportunity to generate more skilled and unskilled jobs. Additionally, this is a sector where modern technology can be adopted at a relatively low cost of investment.
Though there is no shortage of creative talent in Africa, there are logistical and infrastructural obstacles.
These barriers include a lack of skilled managers and industry professionals, lack of avenues for training artists’ technical competence, poor packaging and lack of standardization of cultural products, and poor distribution systems.
In order to move forward, governments will need to increase investments and implement relevant policies for the cultural and creative industries. An increase in economic opportunity in Africa through the arts requires government support.
Global and regional supply chains across the continent should also be built that will, in turn, create new trade patterns for African economies. For this to happen, there needs to be increased collaboration between global and Africans brands, designers/manufacturers, and development partners and governments.
Though there is a lot of work to be done, recent developments point to the strong possibility of incoming progress in the future.
Efforts to direct focus to the arts and address obstacles have recently emerged. For example, at Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) stakeholder meetings in May 2015, the fifteen member states were urged to shift their focus from timber, cocoa and mineral exports to the introduction of relevant policies and funding for arts and cultural industries that will generate new economic opportunity in Africa.
In addition, ECOWAS members were called upon to support artists with training and offer them opportunities to collaborate with international partner organizations to help quality, standardization and packaging.
Further, the African Development Bank’s Office of the Special Envoy on Gender (AfDB) launched several initiatives in 2015. Such initiatives included Fashioeconomics, an event which brought together fashion designers and development partners to talk about the challenges of securing financing to build up the sector.
Additional forums and events regarding the fashion industry have also taken place, with participants highlighting the needs for innovative financing mechanisms to provide incentives to grow the industry.
Participants also highlight the need for fresh approaches to scale up African design firms through entrepreneurship, training and skills development, and boosting access to finance and global markets.
– Anton Li