Kenya was again at the centre of the global map recently when our very own Makena Onjerika won the prestigious 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing — irrefutable testimony that our creative talent has come of age.
Tapping into this impressive reservoir of talent constitutes one of the best avenues to reinforce Kenya’s credentials as a global tourism brand.
Art knows no boundaries. Creative artistic talent stands out, no matter the origin or domicile. Such talent can be a potent tool for building a vibrant creative economy with special focus on creating linkages to dominant sectors of the economy such as tourism.
The creative economy can play a central role in creating a unique country identity and visibility.
It can serve as a distinct tourism marketing vehicle geared to promoting our unique cultural identity.
Since culture and the creative industry are intertwined, there is a great scope to position the latter as a pillar of our tourism sector.
Kenya relies heavily on tourism as a source of wealth and revenue. We, therefore, need to do more to build strong synergies between the tourism sector and the creative economy. The creative industry encompasses a diverse repertoire cutting across music, drama, literature, audiovisual and visual arts, architecture and other artistic and cultural expressions.
Globally, the creative economy is estimated at $2.25 trillion (Sh225 trillion) and employs 30 million people directly. It is a global economic force cannot be ignored. Kenya should seek ways of leveraging its own to grow the economy.
Historically, the fortunes of Kenya’s tourism sector have been tied to the safari-and-beach niche.
That is, however, changing with the growing shift to emerging markets such as cultural, medical and sports tourism. Given its nexus to culture, Kenya’s creative economy can catalyse successful diversification of our tourism sector through sustainable growth of cultural tourism.
As the state agency tasked with marketing the country as an attractive meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibition (Mice) destination, the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), Nairobi, is keen on working with partners to promote diversification of the tourism market.
Last month, we launched an initiative in partnership with Kenyan artists.
The KICC Mini Art Gallery entails showcasing work by local artists for free within the KICC building.
We realised that local artists often lack a platform to showcase their talent to the world.
Given that KICC hosts thousands of visitors on any given day, this partnership allows even the little-known artists to show the rest of the world their talent. We also view this initiative as an opportunity to spur job creation among youth, who constitute a majority in the industry.
Using our creative industry to expand the scope of the tourism market will transform the country into a competitive and resilient tourist destination while creating a global market for our creative economy. It’s a win-win scenario.
Ms Gecaga is the managing director, Kenyatta International Convention Centre. [email protected]