Africa’s creative industry is a potent instrument that could grow the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of African countries and pull the youth out of poverty, according to President of the African Import Export Bank (Afreximbank), Prof. Benedict Oramah.
According to a statement, Oramah said this at the two-day Creative Africa Nexus (CANEX), which held physically and virtually at the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) 2021, in Durban, South Africa.
He said that the creative industry had the power “to catalyse intra-African trade, create millions of jobs for the continent’s young population, and promote the emergence of national and regional value chains”.
Hailing the power of creatives to spur industrial development, he said Afreximbank instituted the CANEX programme to support Africa’s creative and cultural industries in a manner that would revolutionise the continent’s untapped talents.
“The creative industry is a bankable market,” he said.
He gave assurance that Afreximbank would continue to support the creative economy.
In his address, South Africa’s Minister of Arts and Culture, Kosinathi Mthethwa, who performed the official launch, said the CANEX programme represented an opportunity to unlock the best of Africa.
“The next gold for Africa is the cultural and creative economy,” Mthethwa said.
He added that Africa’s political agendas could be positively influenced by the rich tapestry of arts and culture.
“Central to cultural diplomacy is the notion of people-to-people relations and Africa can use ‘soft diplomacy’ by leveraging the arts to create these human connections.”
The CANEX activities included a panel conversation on leveraging the AfCFTA to Promote African Creative and Cultural Industries and a fireside chat with Afreximbank President Prof. Benedict Oramah.
Other activities that took place at the CANEX included another fireside chat with Nigerian-American actress Folake Olowofoyeku; a panel conversation on Afrobeat – What’s Next for African Music.
Another panel on Protecting African Creativity – Intellectual Property Best Practice, and a complement of live performances from some of Africa’s top talent, also held.
In his intervention, Wambuli Gathee, Screenings Manager, Docubox East African Film Fund, which was founded to support talented independent film-makers and documentary producers, said that the fund had expanded throughout East Africa.
“We’ve dedicated ourselves to aggregating and allocating opportunities to an ever-growing community of film-makers of up to 40 independent East African film-making teams.
“We’ve awarded grants from 2,500 dollars to 23,500 dollars,” he said.
Gathee said that exhibiting at CANEX provided Docubox with the opportunity to forge links with global players in order to attract more funding, as some films projected under its banner had already made their marks on the world stage through awards and recognition.
They included Softie, winner at Sundance 2020; The Letter, an official selection at IDFA 2019; and New Moon, winner at DIFF 2018, as well as Morning After, Dogorizer and Thank You For The Rain which had been recognised globally.
Yusuf Mahmoud, Founder and Director of Sauti Za Busara Festival, Zanzibar, told participants that after 23 years in Zanzibar, building bridges and lasting collaborations in the industry remained an ongoing challenge.
Cornelia Glele, Director of Festival International de Films de Femmes de Cotonou, highlighted language barrier as a major challenge facing creatives in Benin.
Glele said that language barrier had hindered expansion to the world and forced members of the industry to thrive only within their country.
Les Allen, Founder of ICON Festival in South Africa, called on creatives to take advantage of digital platforms to advertise and sell their crafts, arguing that it was no more about gatherings and physical interactions as the world was now digital.
“There is money to be made,” he said.
“Computer gaming, comic stories and animation are the new language of wealth in the creative platforms.”
Oscar ‘Oskido’ Mdlongwa, South African artist and record label owner with almost three decades of experience in the industry, noted that music had shifted towards digital spheres.
“It’s not about printing CD’s anymore. It’s not even about getting airplay on radio. One’s music must be marketed and sold online. Streaming services and social media are the new lucrative vehicles.
“The music business has evolved and up-and-coming artists and old-players must be educated about the new technologies.”
Ade Awofisayo, Head of Music, Sub-Saharan Africa, for YouTube, said that what is lacking in Africa now was education on how to leverage digital platforms.
Antos Stella, an independent music label owner, highlighted the need for a collaborative approach by musicians in Africa in order to establish an African-grown streaming service that defined African standards and set African benchmarks for monetising digital platforms.
Stella said such an approach would see more artists being exposed and earning better livelihoods.
Audu Maikori, Founder of Chocolate City Entertainment, Nigeria, argued that Africans should think “Local first and global later” as a strategy to empower the African music industry.