Centre stage with Africa's leading creators: building linkages to ignite action

September 22, 2023

In recognition of the pivotal role that creative industries play in driving Africa's economic growth and social development, UNDP organized a regional dialogue titled "Centre Stage Africa: A Candid Conversation with Africa’s Leading Creators" on 27-28 July 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The goal of the dialogue was to explore the potential of the creative and cultural industry (CCI) and its contribution to Africa's economy and its vital role in Africa's sustainable development.

The dialogue attracted 25 leading creators living and working in Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Ethiopia, Senegal, and the USA. Of the 25 participants, 17 were women and 8 men with one virtual participant representing fashion, film, beauty, policy, finance, law, media, and communication industries. Representatives from regional and international institutions such as the United Nations, the African Union Commission, the European Union and the British Council also joined the discussions. 

The creators identified the numerous and persistent challenges they face in the sector, including budget constraints, limited access to finance and capital, and a lack of comprehensive data. Quality education, training and capacity building opportunities are limited, and the creative industry lacks clear organizational structures and representation challenges in policy discussions. Lack of enforcement of intellectual property rights and cross-border market access can be difficult, for example, with imported second-hand goods impacting local fashion industries. 

“Africa’s creative sector is an engine for growth and development on the continent. With 60% of the population under the age of 25, we have an opportunity to absorb this army of youth and diversify Africa’s economy to generate growth, jobs and drive development to achieve the SDGs and Agenda 2063," said Ayodele Odusola, UNDP Resident Representative in South Africa and Manager of the Africa Sustainable Finance Hub.

In her official remarks, Leslie Richer, Director of the Information and Communications Directorate at the African Union Commission, said “We have not scratched the surface of what is possible. Culture is probably the most powerful underutilized tool we have to achieve and transcend our vision for Africa’s social and economic development. Collective and united action is necessary to get African governments to implement the legislative actions that will drive commitment and investment in the sector.”

The dialogue successfully advanced the understanding of the creative sector's potential, laying the foundation for meaningful development initiatives within Africa's creative economy.

Key takeaways and recommendations include the need for: i) access to targeted and tangible financial capital; ii) increased sector specific capacity building opportunities and dialogue platforms; iii) integrated ecosystems that increase access to continental markets and facilitate the free movement and employment of creative workers; and iii) Legal, social protection and advocacy measures to safeguard the interests of creators and their creative works.

These issues collectively shape the landscape of Africa's creative economy, highlighting the diverse and complex nature of different experiences in the sector. Addressing these challenges is crucial for unlocking the full potential of African creativity.

Centre Stage Africa served as a platform to identify new partnerships and investment opportunities, promote pathways to regional and continental integration through actionable, innovative ideas and solutions for addressing development challenges within the creative industry.

The dialogue closed with an experiential exhibition of the creative sector in action that offered an immersive look into the sector as creators from various fields showcased their talents and projects. Through interactive installations and performances, from visual arts to music, film and fashion, the mini expo celebrated the diversity of CCI, offering a glimpse into the boundless creativity that drives our society.