Could creativity be Africa’s next biggest export?

As the continent with the world’s youngest population, the potential for growth and development in Africa is unmatched as every year millions of young Africans enter the labour market. However, many African countries are plagued with high unemployment rates leaving youth frustrated with the lack of viable options for work and income.

Africa’s youthful workforce could either provide an opportunity or a challenge for the continent. In order to generate new jobs and employment for the youth, now is the time to tap into Africa’s creative potential and empower the young.

Creativity, which is the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; is the work that produces something new and valuable. Creativity is the catalyst for innovation and the ability to look at something in a new way and we need to see Africa in a new way.

On the road to development, African countries must build a healthy cultural context that cultivates a dynamic creative climate by investing and fostering opportunities for creativity and entrepreneurship. There is simply no need for African countries to cling to the traditional way of doing things but rather embrace innovation and creativity.

Young African minds are primed for innovation and enabled by the connectivity of the digital age, young people are pursuing creative entrepreneurship and making jobs for themselves using their creativity. In today’s digital age, many youths have realised that there are many routes to success and one doesn’t have to stick to the traditional professions of doctor/ lawyer/ engineer to make a living.

In fact, thanks to the internet, African fashion designers, graphic designers, musicians, and artists now have access to audiences and paid opportunities all over the world. A theory by American economist and social scientist Richard Florida posits that creativity is the underlying force of all economic advancement.

He coined the term “creative class” to describe talented and creative people who help spur economic and high-tech growth. In Florida’s theory, the newest power that dominates modern society is not money, power or size. It is creativity. As such, proper investment in the creative class has the potential to bring high dividends to African countries.

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Competitiveness on a global scale is measured in terms of a country’s ability to build powerful and dynamic economic strength from the birth of new industries and in Africa creativity serves as the perfect opportunity to compete on a global stage. There are now tangible opportunities to give African creatives a voice, a means of expression and the budgets they need to get their work seen around the globe.

Such was the case with Christie Brown, a Ghanaian fashion designer and alum of the Joyce Ababio College of Creative Design, who designed a modern, chic and versatile suit worn by Beyonce’s mother Tina Lawson which showcased contemporary style with African aesthetics. Another notable JACCD alum and fashion designer Ophelia Crossland was nominated to represent Ghana at the 2019 Qipao Invitational Exhibition at the National Silk Museum, Hangzhou City, China These two designers are just a few examples of the reach African creativity can have on a worldwide platform.

 Photo: Tina Lawson wearing Christie Brown

Photo: Model wearing Ophelia Crossland LOVENOTES SS17 Collection

For another example, one just has to look at Nollywood to see how many employment opportunities are generated by creativity. According to the United Nations Africa Renewal information programme, Nollywood is Nigeria’s second-largest employer, with over a million employees and generates an impressive US$590 million annually.

Nollywood’s creative presence has not gone unnoticed on global stages and recently streaming giant Netflix announced the launch of Netflix Naija which serves as an indication that there is global demand for African creativity. All over the continent, from Accra to Nairobi, Cairo to Johannesburg more and more jobs are being created as the creative industry blooms.

Photo: NetflixNaija launch photo

However, that is not to say that there are no difficulties. While the internet offers a somewhat level playing field to creators all over the world, African creatives in the digital world are facing a number of challenges; power outages, limited access to the Internet, financial issues but perhaps the biggest among them is the lack of a formal and regulated industry.

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While the continent is full of creative initiatives, entrepreneurship alone is not enough to solve the problem of unemployment on the continent. In order to capitalize on African creativity, we must formalise the creativity industry so creatives are legally protected and valued. Another key issue has been the attitude of the general public towards those who pursue careers in the creative field.

Traditionally it was thought that pursuing a career in the creative arts was a frivolous endeavour, however, attitudes are slowly beginning to change as more and more Africans pursue their creativity and find success on a global scale. Institutions like the Joyce Ababio College of Creative Design prepare the next generation of African creatives to see the world in a different way and to use their creativity to solve problems.

Historically Africans have had no control in the way their images were portrayed in the public. The images produced as a result of this lack of control are still harmful and degrading today. Creativity allows Africans the opportunity to represent themselves which is powerful.

The ability to offer a lens into the reality of your culture and experience is necessary as it allows others to understand and relate on a human level. This new generation of African creatives is motivated by telling and retelling the story of the role of Africa and African people on the international stage in a bid to present Africa in a fresh way.

>>>This article was authored by Joyce Ababio College of Creative Design, http://www.jaccd.edu.gh. The institute can be reached on 0 235 682 600, 0 302 797 471 and on WhatsApp on 0508684832

 

 

 

 

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