By Baba Abdulai
It is often the case that when it comes to the contributions of the creative industries to national development in this country, the recognition is at best to give them footnote positions in our national scheme of things or at worst to remain mute about what they contribute.
However, some actors in the creative industries have started taking steps to right this wrong and one of them, Institute of Music and Development (IMD) with funding from the Business Advocacy Challenge Fund (BUSAC), has gone as far as commissioning a study on the challenges and opportunities facing the industries as its way of contributing towards enriching the Implementation of the Creative Sector Medium-Term Strategic Plan (2010 – 2012).
I happened to have seen a copy of the report of the study and I must say there is a lot contained in it for progress, if and only if, the authorities are open to fresh suggestions. For example, it is a known fact that the creative industries’ contribution to sustainable development has been recognised in many developing countries, particularly in Asia where effective policies are being put in place to augment their potential for national development.
In West Africa, Nigeria’s film industry, which is now third in the world and worth $250 million a year and a direct employer of nearly half a million people is fast becoming a significant contributor to the Nigerian economy. In 2013 Nollywood, as the industry is called in Nigeria, contributed £76.9 billion to the economy of United Kingdom thus representing five percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and created over 2.6 million jobs.
What the IMD report seeks to understand is the challenges that faced the implementation of the Creative Sector Medium Term Strategic Plan which was developed under the framework of the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA) 2011 – 2013.
It has to be mentioned that Ghana has adopted the UNCTAD definition of the creative sector which identifies nine areas: cultural sites, traditional cultural expressions, visual arts, performing arts, publishing, audio visuals, new media, creative services and design. These nine identifiable areas are functional with the performing arts and the audio visuals being the most dominant ones.
It is to harness the opportunities embedded in the sector that the IMD in collaboration with the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), who are the implementing partners, regulatory bodies and other civil society groups developed the Creative Sector Medium Term Strategic Plan (CSMTSP).
The report stated that the “main objective was to develop and strengthen Ghana’s Creative economy in ways that would enable the nation to actively engage in the world trade in creative goods and services,” adding that about “17 strategic initiatives were identified and respective action plans developed.”
However, the implementation of the Plan was believed to have been unsuccessful due to a number of reasons and the IMD study was aimed at identifying these factors and making the necessary recommendations. To understand the challenges in the implementation of the Plan, the study adopted a direct approach of interviewing stakeholders and questionnaires were designed to understand the challenges in the development of the Plan and its implementation.
Majority of the interviewees disagreed that the Plan achieved its initial objectives and common challenges pointed out by the interviewees were the lack of capacity (financial and human resources) to implement the Plan, lack of coordination, lack of leadership and ownership of the Plan and competing activities. It has to be mentioned that in Ghana there is no specific legislation or policy on the creative industries and therefore what Ghana has are a number of laws and policy documents that partly address the needs of the sector.
The following is how the report captured it:
“A review of the legislations and policies revealed that the existing regulations are fragmented and need to be consolidated to address the changing needs of the creative industries. Existing laws are not dynamic in nature to address the changing phase of the creative industries.
A review of the strategic plans for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts and Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Department suggests that strategies have been put in place to enhance the competitiveness of the industry. Two bills, the Broadcasting Bill and the Film Bill are currently at advanced stages of being passed in Parliament. The bills have provisions which include the setting up and strengthening of authorities to ensure proper oversight of the creative sector.”
The report also stated that access to finance for the creative industries is limited and that businesses in the sector do not have any credit system specifically designed for them and compete for the traditional sources of funds from banks and credit institutions, adding that challenges with finance include the lack of understanding between the sector, lack of good business practices, lack of information and expensive lending terms.
A review of financing revealed creative sources of funds from public and private for the sector such as assisting the businesses to put in place best practices by providing free business advice and linking businesses with financiers. Also in the report, a review of policies and best practices focused on the structure of the sector, tax incentives, funding, legislation, infrastructure and marketing, showed that UK and South Africa have put in place programmes and policies to support access to finance through specific tax incentives, providing tax breaks for businesses, and improving educational curriculum with local content being promoted on television stations and at festivals to promote the rich culture of the countries.
“Best practices in other jurisdictions include the creation of a Council for Creative Industries which is legally mandated to provide strategic direction and policies for the sector. In some states in the US such as Massachusetts, a specific legislative instrument was enacted to create a council. The councils perform specific roles such as providing policy direction for the sector, developing strategic plans, promoting the sector internationally and identifying funding for the businesses,” the report captured.
These councils are resourced with a secretariat, qualified members and directors representing both government and the private sector as contained in the legislative instrument setting the councils up and which also defines tenure of the members, their roles and the administration of the council.
Recommendations contained in the report are varied and I hope that when the report is made available to the right authorities, steps will be taken to reap the huge benefits the creative industries are capable of providing this country.