Sana Kim and Manfredi De Bernard
On the 14thof November CMCI department hosted Understanding and Supporting Creative Economies In Africa, a one day international conference, which served as a closing event of the AHRC funded research network Understanding And Supporting Creative Economies In Africa: Education, Networks And Policyled by Dr Roberta Comunian (King’s College London) and Brian Hracs (University of Southampton). The purpose of the event was twofold. First, it intended to give collaborators and partners of the research network an opportunity to disseminate their research findings. Second, it aimed to bring together UK and African academics, but also creative economy practitioners to discuss the current state of knowledge in relation to the development of creative economy in Africa from both perspectives – academic research and practitioners’ experience.
The conference comprised of four sessions with each session narrowing the discussion to a specific topic in relation to the creative economy in Africa. The first session focused specifically on the matters of education relevant to the creative economy in Africa. Via case studies from Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda, speakers were able to identify various gaps in the creative education provision and shortages of certain skills among local creative practitioners. One of the speakers – Joan Mosomi (University of Nairobi) – found that in case of fashion design, higher education institutions in Nairobi tend to concentrate on theoretical aspects of the discipline, often overlooking its practical aspects, which has led to the shortage of entrepreneurially and technically savvy creatives in the field.
During the second session, speakers explored the role of arts and creativity beyond the economy. Prof. Burton (Newcastle University) and Dr Nabulime (Makerere University) opened the session by sharing amazing stories of young artists in East Africa, whom they personally met and interviewed. The speakers highlighted some of the common challenges these artists face ranging from the absence of government support to the overall weakness of the local creative ecology. After an enlightening review of the cultural policy evolution in Nigeria delivered by Prof. Duro Oni (University of Lagos), Creative Economy Programme Manager – Genevieve Pace – shared how on-going projects by the Creative Economy division of the British Council are actively trying to fill these gaps through various workshops, training and direct funding opportunities.
The next session looked at creative intermediaries. Wakiuru Njuguna shared a brilliant mission of the HEVA Fund, which supports a lot of artists and creative industries in Africa, taking up a vital responsibility – often absent – of a financing stakeholder of the creative ecosystem. Lauren England (King’s College London) then proceeded with an investigation of creative intermediaries and their roles in the African contexts. Dr Lilac Adhiambo Osanjo (University of Nairobi) then shifted the focus of the session to the issues around the growth of the fashion design industry in Kenya.
The final session paid attention to creative markets, networks and mobilities with contributions from the conference co-organisers. Dr Brian Hracsopened the session with the discussion on various forms of mobility (temporary, mediated and virtual) available to the creative entrepreneurs today. Then, using a case study of craft intermediaries in Cape Town, Dr Roberta Comunian reflected on the vital role that creative intermediaries and creative ecologies play in African creative economies that often lack in public support.
While the network activities have officially closed with the conference there are many academic outputs in the pipeline, including two edited books and a policy report. If you would like to keep updated about future outputs, please visit the project blog in 2020.
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