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Why we must prioritise the creative sector

Saturday November 5 2016

Artwork displayed at the Go Down Arts Centre on January 22, 2014.

Artwork displayed at the Go Down Arts Centre on January 22, 2014. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Investing in the creative sector is investing in the future.

Cultural and creative industries are more profitable globally than telecom services and employ more people than the combined car industries of Europe, Japan and the USA.

The Swedish company Mojang, creator of Minecraft, was sold in 2015 for $2.5 billion (Sh250 billion).

Contrast that with the fact that when the Swedish car manufacturer Volvo was sold in 2010, the price tag was $700 million (Sh70 billion) less.

Both Kenya and Sweden are at the forefront of the global creative sector.

That is why the upcoming Swedish and Kenyan #CreativeNations forum is being staged from November 9 to 11 in Nairobi.


For the three days, Swedish and Kenyan partners will celebrate the dynamism of the creative sector in both countries.

In Kenya the creative industries sector has been consistently on the rise for the last decade.

While up-to-date data is difficult to come by, a frequently quoted figure shows that Kenya’s creative sector, then, comprised over five percent of the GDP.

A study commissioned by the ministry of Information and Communication in 2012 projected that Kenya’s creative industries could double their contribution to the GDP and employment to 10 per cent by 2017.

In real numbers this would be over $6 billion (Sh600 billion).


In Sweden in 2014, the creative sector had a turnover of over $50 billion and contributed to the Swedish GDP with over $18 billion.

The creative sector not only impacts on the economic growth of nations, but also provides significant non-monetary value.

It contributes to inclusive social development and to dialogue and understanding between peoples, both domestically and across national borders.

To capitalise on all these benefits, governments and cultural practitioners need to commit to prioritising the sector.

A thriving creative sector depends on a healthy ecosystem of government, non-profit organisations, public and private sector actors, artists and other cultural professionals all working together.

The recent National Creative Economy Conference, organised by the Kenyan government is an indication of the value that the Kenya government attaches to this sector.

The local sector, too, has contributed to the push for the formulation of the Culture Bill, and more recently in the debate on the proposed Kenya Film Classification Bill.

Both Kenya and Sweden have significant success stories to tell.

Kenya’s creative industries enjoy the global limelight with international successes such as the popular band Sauti Sol, actress Lupita Nyong’o and the award-winning film Kati Kati by Mbithi Masya, to cite just a few examples.


In Sweden, the TV-series Bron (The Bridge) has been exported to 160 countries and was nominated for a BAFTA alongside series such as Homeland and Game of Thrones; Swedish music producer Max Martin can count 19 number-one hits on the Billboard Charts, second only to the Beatles. The list goes on and on.

Often integrated into the creative industries is digitisation, an area with large potential for growth and trade.

Kenya was a frontrunner with the enthusiastic adoption of the extremely successful innovation M-Pesa long before other countries adapted to non-bank electronic money transfer systems.

The Swedish invention Skype similarly is a worldwide phenomenon.

The #CreativeNations forum will create new partnerships by bringing together Swedish and Kenyan creative entrepreneurs.

The forum is created in cooperation with Belatchew Architects, Bikozulu, Blank Spot Project, Brck, Creatives Garage, Färgfabriken, Green Team Inistiative, Go Down Arts Centre, Kreativ Sektor, Meanwhile in Kenya, Music Sweden, Oh Snap Sweden, One Touch, Stockholm School of Economics, Swedish Incubator and Science Parks, ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts Kenya, ministry of Culture, Sweden, The Nest, UN Habitat.

It provides a space for dialogue, sharing and co-creation over three days. For more information, visit

Joy Mboya is the Director of the GoDown Arts Centre. Johan Borgstam is the Ambassador of Sweden to Kenya