There have been one too many forums aimed at answering the questions, ‘Is the Kenyan government doing enough in funding the creative sector?’ and ‘How exactly is the government funding the creative sector?’. Although we are yet to find acceptable or satisfying responses to this questions, this is a conversation we need to keep engaging in with the government; so as to ensure we are aware of what is going on and to make sure policies involving funding the creative sector are underway.
Has the Kenyan government neglected the creative industry? Is the government doing enough in funding the creative industry? It is important to remember while our economic development is seemingly focused on the ‘traditional’ factors of production — land, labor and capital — the creative economy is premised on individual and group creativity. One apt description of the creativity is offered by Hendrik van der Pol. Based on ideas rather than physical capital, the creative economy straddles economic, political, social, cultural and technological issues and is at the crossroads of the arts, business and technology. It is unique in that it relies on an unlimited global resource: human creativity. Growth strategies in the creative economy therefore focus on harnessing the development potential of an unlimited resource and not on optimizing limited resources (as in traditional manufacturing industries).
The creative economy, therefore, requires new modes of thinking to appreciate and invest in its value, especially in developing countries like Kenya. According to Dr. Joyce Nyairo, the Cultural Historian and Managing Director at Santuri Media, the government seems not to be aware of what is supposed to be done to improve the creative sector. More funding and effort is inclined towards other sectors abandoning the creative sector. She says, 20-30% of unclaimed financial assets should be invested in the National Arts Council, instead of the 0.05 % being invested.
One forum that is dedicated to keep the government on its toes is the HEVA/HIVOS forum. Heva forum was founded by George Gachara who in 2015, teamed up with local and global investors to set up HEVA. It provides financing to early-stage businesses in the creative industry of up to Ksh.1m (about US$10,000), in the first application, and up to Ksh.10m (about $100,000) in the second application. The funding is repayable through revenue sharing, convertible debt, equity and monthly loan repayments. To date, at least fifteen businesses have benefited from the fund. Eight of these are from the fashion industry and the others from photography, retail and clothing industries.
The government can contribute to the creative sector through funding/sufficient budgetary allocation, creating exhibition spaces, creating tax incentives, having clear policies with clear timeline target etc. They can also influence the education system to not only emphasize on science courses but should put equal emphasis on arts subjects.
Carolina Quintana, head of Creative Economy and Industries Programme at the UNCTAD Head Office in Geneva says the United Nations is talking to governments encouraging them to invest in the creative sector. More governments in the continent are realizing the importance of creative sector.