You need to get a piece of Kenya’s creative economy

Musician Avril performs during national youth convention at Safaricom indoor arena, Kasarani on June 6, 2014. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |

What you need to know:

  • This year’s Kenya Economic Survey, reveals that arts, entertainment and recreation segments employed 67,000 Kenyans in 2013, up from 64,000 in 2012.
  • The study noted that the industry grew to Sh3.4 billion in 2013 from Sh2.9 billion in 2012.

If you asked Avril Nyambura, 27, to introduce herself, undoubtedly, she would say, “I am a musician, an entrepreneur, a model and an actress”, while Ian Mbugua would say, “I am a thespian, a TV personality, an actor, a teacher et al”.

Both Avril and Ian represent the face of Kenyans who are earning a living from an industry once perceived as a preserve of “academic dwarfs”.

They are also part of a revolution that is awakening a sector well known as “creative economy”.

Creative economy encompasses films, TV, literature, advertising, art, crafts, design, fashion, music, performing arts, publishing and video games.

“Africa is rich in talent and creativity,” ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said in Nairobi during the launch of M-Net Maisha Magic. His opinion is an affirmation that the sector’s potential is untapped.

In his LinkedIn profile, a member of creative industries task force Michael Otieno says that the government is committed to double the growth of creative industries.

In 2011, former Information PS Dr Bitange Ndemo established a creative industry task force to understand and define the sector in Kenya; whose end results will be to create 10 per cent of employment by 2017.

This year’s Kenya Economic Survey, reveals that arts, entertainment and recreation segments employed 67,000 Kenyans in 2013, up from 64,000 in 2012.

The study noted that the industry grew to Sh3.4 billion in 2013 from Sh2.9 billion in 2012.


It is under this trend that both private and public sector have joined hands to build infrastructure and capacity to commercialise creative talent and reap the vast fortunes.

Already, Multichoice Kenya has invested Sh3 billion in the film and content sub-sector.

“We are investing Sh1.5 billion in content production. Last year, we invested Sh1.5 billion in our new studios at Jamhuri Park,” said M-Net regional boss Michael Ndetei.

The bulk of the new investment will be spent in Kenya where 85 per cent of the content will be generated, as Multichoice builds capacity in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania.

In July, StarTimes Media pumped Sh6.9 billion into a project that will see it establish its Africa headquarters in Kenya by the end of 2015.

The firm acquired 20,000 square metres of land in Karen to build office blocks, a film and television dubbing centre, StarTimes broadcast station, Digital TV research and development centre as well as a training centre.

Commenting on the investment, Arts and Culture Cabinet Secretary Dr Hassan Wario said, “It is trend-setting seeing that the headquarters will not only house your Africa operations, but also include a production centre that will see the growth of local productions and talents. The government will continue to initiate efforts geared towards ensuring businesses flourish.”


Even as the private sector is investing heavily, a study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in 2010 indicated that Africa’s share of the global creative economy is less than one per cent.

In its manifesto, the Jubilee Coalition recognises that the industry has long been overlooked.

“The associations between sport and the creative industry have long been overlooked. We believe they should be nurtured and supported.”

In support of the Jubilee manifesto, Dr Ndemo notes, “If you have watched the Kenya Schools Drama Festival, you will understand the unexploited potential that we have. Many of the pupils will dissipate into abject poverty or at best go to college to take careers their parents have chosen, only to tarmac later with concealed talent.”

He adds, “Our failure to develop the creative-economy value chain is hurting. Global content giants are taking advantage of our irrational behaviour, and have started to archive our own cultural material such that in the future we shall buy it from them. At the minimum, we should build digital libraries of our cultural heritage.”

On December 5, 2013, the Guardian published a story titled “Hollywood has blockbuster impact on US economy that tourism fails to match”:

“Creative industries led by Hollywood account for about $504 billion, or at least 3.2 per cent of US goods and services, the government said in its first official measure of how the arts and culture affect the economy.”

The creative economy is serious business. India’s Bollywood contributes over $21 billion to the economy.

Nigeria’s Nollywood, although not well diversified, is ranked third globally in gross earnings, its film industry generated over $800 million revenue in 2013.

“It is time we built the creative economy sector. It is the one that unites us, and has great potential for employment. It must be engaged with differently,” Dr Ndemo argues.

A plan is in the offing that will promote the performing arts by constructing an ultra-modern National Theatre with audio-visual live-links in Nairobi and consolidate the required licenses for artistes-cum-musicians to perform around the country on a single licence.