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British Council Calls for Deliberate Approach to Development of Creative Arts

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By Denis Kasule Ssebunya

The British Council in Uganda wants the government to structure more deliberate interventions to develop the creative arts industry in the country, through advocating for policy changes, as well as huge dedicated and structured financial investment.

World over, the creative arts industry is looked at as one of the biggest revenue earners for different economies. According to UN estimates, this industry posts over USD 2 trillion in revenue and offers employment to more than 50 million people. However, for Africa, the industry records a miserable USD 58.4 billion, an amount lower than 1 percent of the continent’s GDP.

With such numbers at the global and regional level, the latest information indicates that Uganda’s creative economy earned USD 1.6 billion in the 2018/19 financial year.

“In Uganda, policymakers and the government need to wake up to the talents they have here in this room and across society, nurture it, allow it to grow, and make it a kind of shining star,” says Kate Airey, the British High Commissioner to Uganda, in a meeting with creative artists from different disciplines.

According to Airey, if the creative economy is well developed, it can become a strong pillar in the economy. “In the UK, the creative economy earns up to 108 billion pounds and grows one and a half times more than the whole economy. So, this is how far it can go,” she says, adding that this revenue is a result of hard work.

“The 108 billions were a result of hard work, it’s not something that God gifts to you. As you know nurturing talents is the hardest work ladies and gentlemen,” she said.

She also advised the creative arts industry sector players as well as the government to leverage the expertise, experience, and international presence of the British Council, as the biggest contributor to this sector back in the UK, such that they can pick lessons and also benchmark on what should be done to elevate creative arts.

Speaking to journalists at the start of the weeklong series of activities showcasing Uganda’s creative arts work, dubbed the “Creative Economy Week,” Chilufya Besa, the British Council country director, alluded to the fact that the creative industry has massive economic potential; however, it is often overlooked. The UN estimates that the creative industry will be contributing up to 10 percent of the global GDP, which is massive and few industries have such potential.

He adds that this industry exceeds what is seen with the eyes; it involves the material suppliers in the case of artworks, the entire music and play value chains, including the costume designers as well as the backstage crew and so on. This gives it big potential to contribute to massive job creation in the country. Actually, the creative industry is the second-largest employer after agriculture.

According to Besa, unfavorable policies are among the major stumbling blocks in the development of creative arts in Uganda. He says policy changes will greatly contribute to the development of this industry.

“Uganda’s policy has not yet developed in line with the current times; the industry is not only about heritage but the entire spectrum. We have got film makers, fashion designers among others. We need to eliminate the piecemeal legislation of the sector, for effectiveness in the regulation regime.”

Specifically, Besa appealed to the government to review the creative industry taxation policy, to structure it in a way that facilitates the growth of the sector.

Rachel Magoola, a renowned musician, who is now a member of parliament, informed URN that the foundation of development in this industry starts by going back to the basics, for the sector players to be more authentic and tell that real Ugandan story in a more creative way. She adds that when it comes to managing the industry, there is a need to benchmark and demands for a full arts department in the ministry of gender instead of a mere desk.

“First of all we need an independent body that runs the creative industry, you can not have only a desk in a ministry like gender which has over six portfolios. The creatives industry is huge, bigger than coffee, oil and many others at the moment and the biggest resource is our young demographic who are interested in being creative, if we employ all these children, it is business to government art is a business and we need to understand.”

According to Magoola, the creative arts industry has not been given its due respect; it’s only being used for selfish interests.

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