The Role of Media in Growing the African Creative Economy

For instance, the on-demand media platform, Netflix, has taken African movies to lofty places where the old travelling troupes could not reach. From Kings of Jo’burg to Citation and multiple award-winning King of Boys, our pride is pumped and our purse swelled notches more than it used to.

Muhammadulfatiu Adepeju, a cub reporter with News Central Africa, wrote in this article in the December 2021 News Central end of year essay competition. It came first place.

It doesn’t take as much as Solomon’s wisdom to read the lines on the palm of life.
Human existence has always been in ages and each age with its defining trend.
The seventeenth-century had commercial agriculture, the eighteenth-century had
handicraft production, the nineteenth-century saw the rise of industrialisation,
and the twentieth-century was marked by the emergence and growth of
technology. If I may borrow the words of pundits, creativity is the defining
characteristic of developed 21st-century economies.
However, amid the discovery of this new wellspring of global riches, Africa drags
her feet, only just gaining momentum. Once, a study revealed that “Africa’s share
of the global creative economy is less than 1% and that the export of creative
goods in Africa increased by only 0.6% between 2002 and 2010.”

Before the swim gets deeper, let us adopt the United Nations definition of Creative
Economy as contained in its 2008 Conference on Trade and Development’s
Creative Economy Report for clarity. Creative Economy refers to “the interface
between creativity, culture, economics and technology as expressed in the ability
to create and circulate intellectual capital, with the potential to generate income,
jobs and export earnings while at the same time promoting social inclusion,
cultural diversity and human development.”

While many things can be argued, the prime role of media in helping to create a
virile creative economy is not disputable, particularly with the democratisation of
the media which has allowed for greater citizen participation in media usage and
has led to a content market boom. That explosion provides great opportunities for the
burgeoning African creative economy. It means that more people have the tools
and resources to create — perhaps subtle — publicity content that can help widen
the market for African creative products to lands beyond the oceans that skirt the
continent. For instance, the on-demand media platform, Netflix, has taken African
movies to lofty places where the old travelling troupes could not reach. From Kings of Jo’burg to Citation and multiple award-winning King of Boys, our pride is pumped and our purse swelled notches more than it used to.

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Talking about pride, the media also offers opportunities for Africa to build its
reputational capital and soft power. For a long time, Africans have been heavy
consumers of foreign creative products. An average gen-z spent his childhood with
Jackie Chan, his teen years in India (Sholay and Toofan come to mind), and his
early adult years subtly learning the American modus vivendi. The impact of all
these exposures, though stealth and indistinct, spans our culture, lifestyle, morals,
and even economy. If Africa would want to build the right reputation and wield the
subtle influence that other regions have for years used to hold the African
population in a chokehold, the mass media would be the vehicle.

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Have you asked that, if truly Africa is the cradle of humankind, why are her
cultures largely inferior? The Italian, Spanish, French, Chinese, and English
cultures dominate in influence and spread. Since every creative economy is built
largely on culture, having some African cultures on the list of global cultures can
greatly boost the continent’s economy. Media is one of the largest enhancers of
globalisation; hence, African media users can commit to advancing decent African
narratives that not only put the continent’s beautiful culture on display but also
encourage adoption. The media can be useful in creating a strong market for
African cultures and their creative commodities abroad to the benefit of the
continent’s creative and non-creative economies.

However, some challenges besiege this quest too. Foremost, how do we reconcile
the broken African polities with the formalised creative economy? In a continent
where many governments have autocratic tendencies and the media (traditional
and new) are often facing a clampdown, how do the same media vehicles commit
to the African creative economy cause? More so, for the African creative economy
to be aided through media, media platforms may need to be taxed and must
contribute decently to the continent’s GDP. But, amid the endemic corruption in
African polity, do citizens trust the governments enough to agree to another

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Furthermore, ensuring content quality could be a bit handful owing to the
democratisation of mass media. Value moves an economy. Commercial African
media users may need to formulate ethical principles that can help sanitise the
media landscape, especially social media, and mechanisms to ensure quality must
be instituted. In solving this challenge, African governments should encourage
media platforms, such as News Central Africa, that are genuinely committed to
selling Africa to the world. Enabling legislations should be encouraged to enable
“Africa-first” platforms to thrive and succeed.

The media is the message. It must be said that in power, reputation, influence, and
persuasion that wealth is made. The fate of the African creative economy is tied to
the growth of aforestated variables. African tourism, arts, fashion, music,
computer games, and even research must gain enough publicity, penetration, and
influence before her creative economy can boast of vibrancy. In all, it starts and
ends with the media.

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