Africa has seen its share of rapacious capitalist and financier-led exploitation to the detriment of many on the continent. That model of business, in my opinion, is not the ethos that should inform an entrepreneurship model which seeks to benefit artists and the society. A win/win model whereby stakeholders (artists, investors/partners, audiences, and the culture at large) all gain, is the vision that informs my model of entrepreneurship.
Many historical and present day factors have served to undermine the development of Kenya's arts industry. Some of this is due to the legacy of commodity price devaluations, structural adjustment, bad governance and autocratic leadership that the country went through in the late 1970s, through 1980s into the early 1990s. This perfect storm of economic and political hurricanes led to a drop in personal income and government disinvestment in education, health, the cultural sector (weak copyright protection and lack of enforcement), public employment, with an attendant drop in private investment and public security. These many factors led to the downfall of businesses and enterprises from record labels, recording studios, manufacturing facilities, theatre companies, fashion houses, the textile industry, and arts education institutions to mention just a few.
The 90's and the 21st century have seen a slow turnaround of the circumstances of cultural life in Kenya stimulated by the introduction of a multi party democracy (after many years of struggle and sacrifice), a growing civil society, an independent press, a new constitution and the liberalization of the economy which has attracted foreign and local investment. These various stimuli have seeded growth in the arts sectors via new media houses, a growing advertising industry, corporate and consumer brand marketing, the inclusion of the arts in civil society and NGO- driven education and advocacy efforts, the growth in private universities and vocational training centres and most importantly in the increasing purchasing power of consumers due to economic growth (most especially in the urban areas of Kenya). This growth of purchasing power by Kenyan consumers correspondingly leads to opportunities for entrepreneurs in many diverse sectors of the economy including in the arts. The current context in Kenya offers possibilities whereby cultural entrepreneurs can make significant contributions to the development of systems in the arts industry and create sustainable and profitable businesses.
The World Bank report 2004 “An Integrated Value Chain Analysis of the Kenya Music Industry:
Critical Challenges and Opportunities” estimates Kenyan market size to between 10 to 32 million recordings a year. This translates to Kshs.5.4 billion Per annum from audio cassette sales. When CD sales are included, the retail value of this music rises to Kshs.11.52 billion (appx $120 million dollars) per annum. This is only counting music sales in terms of units. It doesn't reflect the value and potential of music used in radio broadcasts, film/television, recorded music in clubs and restaurants, and live performances at clubs, concerts and festivals. Should the World Bank study this sector today in 2015, and include the other links of the value chain mentioned above, we could be looking at more than a quarter of a billion dollars worth of value in the Kenyan music sector.
Nairobi leads Africa's top 20 cities as the place with the highest spending growth rate in the entertainment scene with 28 annually (approximately 280 Million USD). This growth rate which PWC has estimated will run through 2018 has been attributed to a growing Nairobi middle class seeking to catch up on many of the products and services that developed urbanites take for granted. http://www.thestar.co.ke/news/nairo bi-ranked-number-one-africa- entertainment-sh28-billion-spent annually#sthash.
The big question and challenge is whether that value is shared and whether it is being distributed fairly to those who create this content.
In the cultural sector where I work, it is my contention that it should be the priority of organizers, producers, promoters and event organizers to make sure that artists accrue 25% - 30% of the gross earnings of a cultural project and that those earnings be made transparent to participating artists. The balance of the earnings after artists receive their due can then be split among the various contractors (technical, venue etc.), event staff, presenting company, government taxes and fees, logistics (travel, hospitality) and investors. This paradigm insures that artists feel they are receiving their just due and give incentives for artists to continue to improve and develop their craft.
In Kenya, the past few decades have seen various event promoters, rights holding associations and artist representatives develop unsavoury reputations of exploiting artists and audiences and not delivering the promised returns that can develop and incentivize the sector. Some of this could also be a result of a lack of transparency that fuels allegation of exploitation. The arts industry is not immune from the culture of corruption that has hobbled our nation since our independence in 1963. We also have a continued debate in the music sector that local musicians are not receiving fair value for their talent vis a vis foreign artists which can be proven by the minor share of local content found in television and radio. To turn this around will take the concerted efforts of stakeholders throughout the arts and music sectors with the support of government, civil society, rights holding association and progressive entrepreneurs.
These efforts and collaboration are only now beginning to take shape with the development of new rights bodies in Kenya (Performing Rights Society of Kenya PRSK, Kenya Association of Music Producers KAMP), the drafting of a national music policy, a national copyright board that is finally beginning to develop its enforcement powers and administrative systems, a music copyright society that is slowly reforming from its non transparent past, the passage of a local content law for radio and television broadcasters and the drafting of an East African Community Creative Industries Bill that will hopefully be passed later this year.
The priorities for arts entrepreneurs in Kenya and in East Africa as a whole is to support and invest in all the above systemic work while finding new ways and platforms to entertain audiences, inspire artists to create brilliant work, educate the younger generations of our cultural legacy and the economic potential of the arts. We need to collaborate across the region and the continent, ferment new art forms and expression while ensuring a decent economic return in a context where all the stakeholders gain from the economic growth of this sector.
To paraphrase an expression of Mozambican freedom fighters Aluta Continua! As actors in the sector of arts and entrepreneurship, I believe we need to do the following. Keep cultivating relationships, develop systems, promote transparency and accountability, deepen an ethos of a common good, seize opportunities that new technologies offer, incentivize participation, partner across borders, while attracting the best minds, talent and investment to fully develop and enrich the creative and cultural sectors. This, I believe, is the lattice by which we can realize our sectors potential.