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Arts, Culture and Sport

Funding for the creative economy in East Africa

The creative sector can play a major role in boosting the African economy but greater transparency in the criteria of funding institutions like HEVA is needed.



Rapid technological advancement, globalisation and an arms race (although the latter is always quickly refuted) are among the events that have come to define the 21st century. While these are issues that affect the whole world, it would be ignorant to deny that there are and always will be areas that are “left behind”. When one considers the global economy as it stands at present, it is easy to see how much of a reality that is.

The African continent has the potential to be an economic giant but our downfall is poor management, political interference and corruption, among many issues that I could not even begin to discuss.

The southern region of our continent (particularly South Africa) is recognised as an economic hub that is flourishing in almost all sectors – tourism, the arts, agriculture and academia, to mention a few. And while there are numerous emerging economies among Third World countries that investors could be interested in, the east of Africa has proven to be one of the stable regions over the years, which is one of the reasons that investors show a preference for this region.

Over the past decade, the creative economy has become increasingly significant. The music, film and fashion industries are not only significant but are also providing employment and act as the basis for many business ventures. In addition to the plethora of regulations and laws that are constricting the growth of creative businesses, the lack of funding is a major drawback. The reality is that as much as we are witnessing a deep appreciation for talent and creativity on our continent, there is still some hesitation when it comes to investing in the creative industry. That is why organisations such as HEVA, which focus only on the creative economy, are highly appreciated and important.


A fund that invests purely in the creative sector

HEVA is a fund that invests in the creative economy sector of the East African region. It has been in existence since 2013 and is one of the heaviest financers when it comes to businesses involved in music, film, fashion and gaming (digital content). It has collaborated with major international institutions such as the British Council, the Goethe Institute and even, most recently, the Kenyan government. HEVA funds are categorised into three main groups that are worth from 500,000 Kenyan shilling to as much as 10 000 000 Kenyan shilling. While the HEVA website has broken down the three funds, namely the Cultural Heritage Fund, the Young Women in Creative Industries Fund and the Growth Fund, stating the minimum and maximum amount that each fund offers, plus the deadline dates for applications, very little information is offered concerning the criteria used to select and award the funding.

HEVA recently signed an MOU with the Kenyan government that will see intensive research and the piloting of a project that aims to provide work for the large number of unemployed young artists. It also seeks to promote the domestic market and reduce the heavy reliance on external products, especially when it comes to clothing.

African countries investing in home-grown creativity

There are countries that have invested heavily in the creative industry – the likes of Nigeria (one of the world’s most populous countries), South Africa and, surprisingly, Botswana. Not only do such initiatives seek to provide opportunities for the unemployed population of society but, more importantly, it promotes the kind of cultural development and appreciation that has been fading away. A recent change in the mindset of many Africans saw the white-collar professions being glorified and striven for. Anything less than being an academic and a professional resulting from years of education was not good enough.


I need to ask one question, though: Is funding all that is needed to realise success and achievement of creatives in the economy? At this point in time, when we are still seeing a major struggle when it comes to the advancement and acceptance of talent, yes, of course it is. Yet there are other aspects to consider, a major one being the law. How far can money take us if there are no legal precautions to protect art? But that is a discussion for another day. Victory is achieved one day at a time. For now, the first battle – where the arts and creativity are recognised as viable and important parts of the economy – has been won.