The focus of this discussion was the Kenyan experience or the creative economy within a Kenyan context. When discussing the creative economy, we would need to include the culture in the discussion. According to the UNESCO definition Culture economy and cultural Industry can be interchangeable. The UNESCO definition states that “those industries that combine the creation, production and commercialization of products which are intangible and cultural in nature. These contents are typically protected by copyright and they can take the form of goods or services”

In this discussion, we asked ourselves questions in relation to our own understanding of the creative economy (definitions), the Creative Industries, the government’s role and our role as practitioners in the sector.·

  • Perhaps cultural industry refers more to traditional or indigenous knowledge, while the creative industries may refer to the process of creativity e.g. in music it may include a holistic approach – from creating the product through packaging and marketing it. From African perspective, creative economy naturally embeds culture – the cultural context provides the creator with the inspiration to create artistic work.·
  • How do we quantify the contribution of the creative industry to Kenya’s GDP? This is important for policy makers when lobbying for more support for the arts and culture sector (like the tourism industry has been able quantify its contribution. What tools do we need to ‘measure’ this contribution accurately? Tracking the contribution of the industry to GDP needs a mechanism to be developed. To maximize the gains, we need to pay attention to value addition. The WIPO report says that the creative economy has contributed 5.3% of the GPD (2007) ·
  • With cultural economy, the gains go far beyond financial. There are the moral gains of being culturally alive.·
  • There is a need to map out the sector, including the aspects that are ‘under the radar.’ How do we define what the creative industry includes? How far does our definition go? There is a view that ‘EVERYTHING comes from a creative idea.”
  • Is the creative economy all encompassing – everything that has innovation in it? Is The Creative Economy a by-product of Innovation? (which is different from culture – a way of life)·
  • What is culture? Is culture devoid of innovation? The maasai shuka is a product of an innovation that happened sometime in our history, where there was a connection between the maasai and the Scottish skirt·
  • Creative industry – is it the engine of human culture or is it limited to ‘The Creatives’ i.e. painters, sculptors etc – moving from the traditional culture to include web designers, architects. Creativity is needed across the economy including health, development, education, engineering etc. Also included are manufacturers of TV’s Radio broadening the creative economy definition. It goes further to include marketers of music instruments, sellers of CDs·
  • The creative industry can exploit the versatility of the internet for easier communication, sharing and marketing.·
  • To harness and nurture our ‘young’ creative economy there needs to be
    • Government incentives – The education system needs to pay more attention to the arts and culture sector
    • There is a need to incentivize creativity – through education policy (across the board) so as to positively grow the small to medium sized industry. The place of creativity in relation to development (across the board) is key in the development of the country
  • Is there little government recognition because of the underground creativity or creativity that is created ‘under the radar (e.g. River-wood, who are leading a thriving business, which is not well represented at the ‘taxman radar.’
  • The economic impact of the creative Industry on families, e.g. through school fees payment by parents who are involved in the industry and all the other businesses that develop around a show e.g. publicity, food etc.
  • What do we mean when we are talking of the creative economy/Industry?
    • Aspects of development e.g. ICT, BrandKenya have not been factored in
    • Knowledge based innovation
    • Radio, TV, advertisements, maps, newspapers, films, paintings, etc
    • Performing arts –fashion, Jua kali
    • Are proverbs and folklore (which are common knowledge, but had their originators/communities) included in this?·
  • To fortify the creative industries should we emphasize culture or creativity? Should we peg creativity to our cultures, which because they are unique and ‘scarce’  and can only be expressed through us, with potential for economic leverage? Creativity cannot be isolated from culture.  Even in the traditional sense, the most creative and talented people got more currency (e.g. payment in terms of a chicken or bull…) the driver of culture was not economic but rather the development of relationships, and how people lived together. Therefore in that context, the talent would not dictate the value, but rather that which was determined by the community.·
  • Is there a moral benefit – a common good or a social reward that is reaped from cultural economy? The non-tangible experiential value to the consumers can not be valued monetarily, but the gains can’t be denied (feel-good, healthier nation) Can we measure the experiential value against economic benefit?
  • The sector needs to unearth the inter-connections of the sector with other sectors including education, environment, medicine etc
  • Although the concept of the Creative Economy is not new, it has not been explored and researched like agriculture or tourism. The creative industry touches everybody’s life, and contributes to all arms of development, so it needs its due recognition.·
  • At the moment, government has not given the sector the recognition it deserves. With education, for example, the arts are included as extracurricular activities and are not in the core curriculum. The current conversations government is having on the Creative industry seem ungrounded and a response to international pressure. The structures set up are ineffective – Kenya Intellectual property rights (KIPI) is dysfunctional. There is a clear disconnect between the Kenya Policy on Heritage and Culture that was recently launched and the reality on the ground – for example, the policy only recognizes 3 sub-sectors of the cultural industries: publishing, music, cinema and audio visual. (unlike with the recent milk glut, the  farmers plight was highlighted and policy that followed with tangible measures with tangible results) With culture the notion of ideas being a bank of wealth is still difficult to grasp – the Kenyan psyche of investment is still with tangible things like land, not ideas as yet. The sector needs to develop an appetite for government to connect with and support this industry. There is also need for value addition to our products – the value chain needs support.·
  • The creative industries model that seems closest to us is the concentric circles model – with the origination of an idea at the centre.·
  • MAPPING: The sector needs to articulate the importance of the creative industry in economic terms. There is a need to mainstream this and demonstrate how it plays an important role in the economy as a whole.
  • There is a vacuum between government and the sector. To get to know which artists and creative people are under currently ‘under the radar’, we need to research the sector, develop statistics and documentation for the sectors contribution in this country – statistics, facts, definition etc.


In preparation of the Economy of Creativity seminar held in Mombasa sept/ oct 2010
Session moderated by Aghan Odero

AuthorCato Litangen