2020 has been a year of unprecedented challenge for the creative industry globally. As cinemas and theatres closed, and as film and television production was halted, the future looked uncertain for people working across the creative industries, especially in film, video, music and visual and performing arts. Now, more than ever, we must support our young talent. Failure to do so not only denies young Africans job opportunities in an industry ripe with potential, but also denies us the opportunity to present a more inclusive and accurate picture of Africa to the world.
African creativity experienced a breakthrough this year, as creatives responded to the coronavirus pandemic with flexibility, innovation and resilience. The internet has played a major role in supporting the creative community during this time as it has facilitated online content consumption, especially in Africa where decreasing data costs have boosted demand for digital content. As digitalisation has democratised and facilitated content sharing, now is the time for African creatives to shine, using this newfound visibility to their advantage.
“Now is the time for African creatives to shine, using this newfound visibility to their advantage.”
– Dr Yaya Moussa
Enhancing visibility is one thing, maintaining the momentum is another. Yes, African talent is starting to gain global recognition as a result of digitalisation, but we must now address how to best support and nurture the creative industry as a whole. We must make sure this global surge of appetite for African content isn’t a passing trend. This will require consistency from creatives, but more importantly, it will require appropriate structures, platforms and an enabling environment from governments, investors, businesses and all stakeholders alike.
Investment in African creative industries remains low despite some big name successes. For example, Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry, is the second largest movie industry globally in terms of number of films produced and in 2016 accounted for 1.42% of Nigeria’s GDP. Whilst Nollywood is thriving, it is not a similar picture across the continent where many young creatives struggle to get the financial backing they need. According to the Partech Industry Report 2020, only 1.1% of total African start-up investment was allocated to entertainment companies in 2019. In my view, African creative industries are teeming with potential and are undervalued as an investment opportunity.
Cultivating the African creative economy means building a sustainable ecosystem for young talent to thrive. When we consider that three quarters of Africa’s population is under 35, and that Africa’s total population is predicted to double by 2050, there is a clear case to be made for greater support for an industry with the potential to create much needed employment (it is predicted that Africa will need to create as many as 20 million jobs every year to keep up with the demands of a rapidly expanding population). Creative industries have the potential to create these much needed jobs, but only if the appropriate structures and financing are put in place.
From an investor perspective, Africa’s rapidly growing population also presents an opportunity. Whilst a fast growing young population brings with it many challenges for African countries, in Africa we have an ever-growing potential market of young people that want to consume content relevant to them.
Although the road is still long, that is not to say there haven’t been some improvements in access to the structures and financing required to support the industry. The Nairobi-based HEVA fund, for example, is Africa’s first dedicated finance, business support and knowledge facility for the creative industries, and has invested in 40 businesses and directly supported over 8,000 creative practitioners.
The potential of Africa’s creative industries is what led me to launching Africa Prime, a video-on-demand (SVOD) streaming platform curating pan-African content. Currently, Africa Prime is available for audiences in the US, but our long-term ambition is to grow into a platform that can showcase African talent for a global audience. With Africa Prime, I aim to provide African content creators with a platform that comes with opportunities to master their craft and share their talent with the world.
Creative industries have a central role to play in socio-economic development on the African continent, but they also have a crucial role in shaping the world’s perception of Africa and its inhabitants, thus contributing to Africa’s global influence. In addition to the economic benefits of growing the creative industries, we must also think of the legacy we’ll be leaving behind. We are actively participating in shaping historical perceptions of Africa, with its diversity, intricacies and overlapping experiences. For the first time, in a long time, we have an opportunity to take charge of Africa’s narrative and we must make sure that we convey it in the most representative way possible. Ultimately, nurturing the creative industry is contributing to African history for generations to come.