Wednesday, 27 September 2023

In Industry

Economic Opportunities of Cultural Industries in Africa

Africa is a cultural economy, and there are vast economic opportunities of Folklore and Cultural Industries in Africa, that must not only be protected, but commercialised and continentalised as the AfCFTA unfolds, for the benefit of small business, just as global multinational businesses.

According to, Folklore is oral history that is preserved by the people of the culture, consisting of traditions belonging to a specific culture. These traditions usually include music, stories, history, legends, and myths. Folklore is passed down from generation to generation and is kept active by the people in the culture. 

A major aspect of Folklore is that it is commercialized and culturalised by multinational companies, with African artists using their own traditional material to develop new products in the global market. A case in point is Nigeria, where the first pop song was a Yoruba folksong, then there was highlife popularised by King Sunny Ade, Fuji musician from Ghana, and Fela Kuti who used his culture to create Afro Beats. However, over time these genres were blended into contemporary music and the true culture of the people has been lost.

Folklore sells. Companies from Etsy to IKEA have capitalized on cultural associations with the idea of “folklore”—a term in marketing meant to evoke the traditional, the exotic, the esoteric, the local, and the handmade. Folklore sells small. It sells in the shops that specialize in the handmade, from one person to another. One can see folklore for sale in the popularity of the “buy local” and “Slow Food” movements, intent on keeping craft and food production locally based and preserving traditional networks. 

Half a century has passed since the concept of cultural industries has evolved, and during this time the ways of creating, producing and distributing cultural products has changed dramatically. Cultural industries have incorporated, in addition to adapting to technological advances and the evolving place of media in society, sophisticated production processes and large-scale distribution methods to reach global markets. 

The business domains within the Cultural Industry include Heritage (Museums, Archaeological Historical Places, Cultural Landscapes, Natural Heritage), Performance (Performing Arts, Music, Festivals, Fairs and Feasts), Visual Arts and Crafts (Fine Arts, Photography, Crafts), Books and Press (Books, Newspapers, Magazines, Painted Matter, Libraries, Book Fairs), Audio-Visuals (Film, Video, TV, Radio, Podcasting, Video Games), Design and Creatives (Fashion, Graphics, Interior, Landscape, Architectural, Advertising), just to list the common. Related industries include Tourism domains, sports and recreation.

Many countries in Africa have recognised the potential of cultural industries, which are understood to be a factor of poverty alleviation and building the cultural identity of African communities. Already in the 1990s several sessions and meetings were organized to highlight the link between culture and development. For instance, the Dakar Plan of Action in 1992 was prepared in the spirit of the World Decade for Cultural Development. It reviewed different sectors for cultural industries that were important for Africa (e.g., audio-visual and mass media, publishing industries, handcrafts, architecture, fashion, gastronomy, copyright and piracy), and proposed initiatives in this area.

Economies such as Italy, India, Spain, Egypt, China, have rich Folklore and Cultural Industries, that have influenced the consumption of products and services in various industries such as Tourism, Financial Services, Media, and even Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs). In Africa, the continent known for its rich cultural heritage, there is an urgent need to develop and commercialize Folklore and Cultural Industries, that will also create jobs and reduce dependency on foreign imports. 

Already the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights recognizes the right to develop and preserve their culture. As a member of the African Union (AU) sub-regional economic communities exist with a vast reservoir of valuable folklores. Each community has distinctive cultural elements that are reflected in its various art forms such as music, art, dance, cuisine and traditional medicine. These various art forms attract “cultural tourists” from all over the world.

Imagine a situation where the Masai, Zulu, Yoruba, or Swahili folklores and cultures are aggressively engrafted into the small streams, instead of just mainstreams of commerce, media and business life. The impact of small tales, fables, legends, that are pushed for edutainment and preservation of heritage, through commercial activities, to ensure that Africa has a more vibrant and profitable cultural economy.

The "Africana" is the folklores, legends, myths and stories from Africa.

William Murray, Ethnomusicologist: "It is difficult to conceive of African folk music without cultural production and this involves the production of wares that are valuable in themselves. It is also easy to think of the musical forms that have been developed within these cultures without reference to their overt economic and social significance." 

Anthropologist André Lefevere, "One of the major problems we face in Africa today is how to stimulate economic growth. If economic growth depends on increasing exports, then you do not have a sustainable economy. African societies have developed many cultural activities that are less dependent on foreign capital than most Western countries".

Such insightful views help Africans doing business in the cultural industries to realise that a bulk of the economic potential actually lies in their promoting its folklore, culture and heritage, fusing it into mainstream commerce, to ensure that all other economic domains are consumed for growth and profitability. 

Economies such as Botswana have a rich heritage of Bushmen related cultures and folklores, that since the filming of the popular movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy" in the 1980s, has worked to the economic advantage of the country. Botswana tourism is amongst the most consumed destinations in Africa, and this is much to the promotion of their folklore. 

Africa needs to tap into its Creative Economy (the extract and use of the Cultural Industries). 

According to Deloitte, the creative economy is large and growing. New analysis for this report looks at six large economies in Europe: Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey; and three large economies in Asia Pacific (APAC): Japan, South Korea and Australia. It finds that the creative economy employed nearly 20 million people across those nine economies in 2018. Across those nine economies, creative economy employment represents around 7% of total employment. The creative economy has been growing faster than the wider economy in all nine countries and total creative economy employment is up 4 million from 2011.

Over the longer term, the creative economy is likely to be a key driver of economic growth as governments around the world look to rebuild their economies in the wake of the downturn associated with Covid-19. It is reasonable to expect that the sector will return to its long-term trend of growing faster than the wider economy as, for example, advertising is likely to recover strongly with the wider economy and other sources of income have been more resilient. 

The fundamental driver of creative economy growth remains that when consumers have more to spend, and have increasingly sated their demand for other goods and services, they are more likely to spend that additional income on outputs of the creative economy. Extrapolating from earlier trends suggests that the creative economy could grow 40% by 2030, adding more than 8 million additional jobs, in the 9 economies studied.

Sources: JSOR, Deloitte

Cabanga Media Group publishes of thoughtful economic and business commentary magazines and online media, in several African markets, that include South Africa, Botswana, East Africa Community, Ethiopia, Egypt, Nigeria, and Zambia.