Africa’s creative industries on the move, breaking barriers

By Ojoma Ochai
Article President and Chairman of Afreximbank Prof. Benedict Oramah in a fireside chat with Moky Makura, Executive Director Africa No Filter during Creative Africa NEXUS 2021 in Durban, South Africa.
FEB 7, 2022 LISTEN
President and Chairman of Afreximbank Prof. Benedict Oramah in a fireside chat with Moky Makura, Executive Director Africa No Filter during Creative Africa NEXUS 2021 in Durban, South Africa.

The just-concluded Intra African Trade Fair (IATF) held in Durban, South Africa, ended with deals worth over $36 billion, according to AFREXIM Bank.

There were a series of activities at the fair that focused on the African creative economy as part of Creative Africa Nexus (CANEX), an initiative of the African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank) to support Creative Economy growth on the continent.

CANEX activities at the fair included film policy workshops with film commissioners and policy makers from around the continent; CANEX Live, and the CANEX Summit featuring a series of expert-led discussions, fireside chats, and creative showcases, all aimed at giving an opportunity to show how the creative industry in Africa can contribute to economic growth.

CANEX comes at a good time for the creative industry in Africa. Over the last few years, African music has been gaining global appeal, with West African ‘Afrobeats’ and Southern Africa ‘Amapiano’ being at the forefront of this.

Songs by Nigerian artists Wizkid Ft. Tems and Ckay have topped global Shazam searches and charts in the last few months. At the same time, the number of African 2022 Grammy nominees is unprecedented.

African fashion - propelled by a generation of innovative designers, local and diaspora markets, new support platforms and fashion weeks in Dakar, Kampala, Addis Ababa, no less impactful than their better-known contemporaries in Lagos and South Africa - is increasingly reaching new markets and gracing global catwalks.

Through a partnership with Afreximbank, 20 African fashion designers showcased at Portugal Fashion Week in October 2021.

Film has not been left behind. Beyond Nollywood and the South African movies, films from Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, and other countries are also gaining regional and global recognition. The film industry in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, is witnessing a resurgence with the emergence of institutions and projects led by filmmakers like Petna Ndaliko Katondolo focusing on telling stories about Congolese history through film.

Creators such as musicians, comedians, designers, and others that leverage social media platforms to reach audiences directly and monetise the access are an important part of this industry.

For example, Coco Emilia, the Cameroonian fashion entrepreneur has leveraged her 2.6 million Instagram followers to build multiple fashion and beauty businesses. From Edith Brou, the Ivorian digital activist and TV personality, to Saad Lamjarred, a Moroccan singer-songwriter that used his social media to contribute to the mainstreaming of Moroccan pop, African creatives are now using social media and digital technology to reach new audiences, create new businesses and advocate around issues that are important to them and their communities.

Across all the creative sectors, Africans are actively leveraging the existing opportunities already on the continent to create new opportunities in ‘Createch’ and leapfrogging some of the barriers affecting their markets.

Some of these companies were present at CANEX. These included Black Rhino VR, a Virtual Reality production company headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, that creates content using this kind of technology for sectors as diverse as education, tourism, and health. The co-founder, Brian Afande, was on one of the CANEX panels on Africa and The Global Digital Disruption and spoke about his company’s focus on not just making content but also on strengthening the ecosystem for Virtual Reality in Kenya and around the continent.

On the same panel alongside Emeka Uzoigwe – the acting director, Strategy and Innovation at Afreximbank; Bola Atta – the group director, Corporate Communication at UBA PLC; and this writer - Ojoma Ochai – the managing partner, Creative Economy Practice at CC Hub (Nigeria).

The panel was moderated by Chao Maina, who is leading an innovative company – African Digital Heritage which is leveraging technology to stimulate digital archiving of African heritage.

In addition to digital disruption, the discussions in CANEX covered a range of topics including the importance of cultural festivals in the creative industries of Africa, monetising visual arts content, talent management, representation and branding among, other topics.

Overall, while there were issues highlighted in terms of gaps in talent, infrastructure, regulation and other areas, there was a sense of purpose and hope, that with emerging new companies like the Creative Economy Practice which aims to stimulate more innovation and technology application in Africa’s creative industry, HEVA Fund that is financing creative industry businesses in East Africa and the Afreximbank’s $500 million facility which will offer much needed access to capital, the creative economy in Africa has never been at a better place. Besides improving their economic welfare, it is an unprecedented opportunity for Africans to tell their own stories and promote their own narratives.

Ms. Ojoma Ochai is Managing Partner of The Creative Economy Practice at CC Hub in Nigeria.

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