Dr. Kodjo Nougbolo « The music industry in Africa brings in more than cotton, tobacco, coffee and cocoa»
Specialist in art, culture and development and Secretary General of the Regional Institute for Higher Education and Research in Cultural Development (IRES-RDEC), Dr. Kodjo Nougbolo draws the lines for financing cultural and creative industries in West Africa.
Interview by Blame Ekoue
How is the creative and cultural industries sector doing in West Africa?
Despite the difficulties it faces, the cultural and creative industries sector in West Africa remains creative and retains all its socio-economic potential. It could, with structuring actions on the part of public authorities as well as sub-regional organizations, notably ECOWAS and WAEMU and the private sector, contribute to the economy of the sub-region. Because it should be recalled that before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the various sectors of the cultural industry: music, plastic arts and design, the audiovisual film industry, books and especially arts and crafts which employed a lot of labor, were flourishing. This is although these actors are in the informal sector and faced many problems in relation to access to markets, free movement of people and cultural goods and services in spaces. There were festivals, fairs, exhibitions, shows within the community market. But the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 and the response measures adopted by the various governments, including the closure of borders and broadcasting spaces and the prohibition of assembly have made the sector’s actors face more and more difficulties.
How to support the emergence of cultural and creative industries in this region in the context of COVID-19 crisis?
To support the emergence of cultural industries in the region, a whole range of measures must be put in place. Primarily, it is necessary to improve the legal and institutional framework that governs the sector in sub-regional organizations because these are community markets that these spaces have created, including ECOWAS, WAEMU, with the proclamation of the sacrosanct principle of free movement of people, goods and services. This legal and institutional framework should be strengthened so that when a player in the cultural and creative industries produces in Togo, he can sell his product quietly in Ghana without too many hassles at customs and others. And when he wants to import the raw material to produce cultural goods, there should be in our states tax measures that allow this import. We should also take measures to encourage cultural patronage. Furthermore, spaces for the dissemination of cultural goods and services in the sub-region must be put in place. It is true that there are events such as MASA in Côte d’Ivoire for the entertainment market, CLAP IVOIRE also in Côte d’Ivoire for film distribution, FESPACO in Burkina Faso for cinema, the Dakar Biennial, etc. However, we must strengthen these distribution spaces and support them to make it truly a door or window open on the world for actors and cultural production in the sub-region
We must also encourage the participation of our actors in major global cultural events. We also need to train them because most of them work in the informal sector. They must be trained in entrepreneurship because this is one of the obstacles for access to financing.
Finally, it is necessary to associate the private sector through public-private partnership agreements so that the public sector can follow the lead of the State to support the actors of cultural and creative industries. We say this because the sector has a potential. Studies by the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) have shown since 2004 that the music industry in black Africa brings in more than cotton, tobacco, coffee and cocoa. The figures are around 50 billion for the music industry (the data are perhaps a little old) while the tobacco industry is around 17 billion, the coffee and cocoa industry around 30 billion and the cotton industry does not reach 50 billion. So, you can see already if we invest in this sector, what this could bring…
Is public-private partnership the key in your opinion?
We are not saying that it is a magic formula, but we believe that public-private partnership is one of the keys to the development of cultural and creative industries, especially when it comes to financing. When you look at all the mechanisms that are put in place to finance culture in general, you see that there are only the States, state institutions or funds set up by the States that most often subsidize the various actors of cultural and creative industries and provide them with grants and support. However, the State cannot have the resources to do everything, especially in these times of pandemic where the priority is the effects of the health crisis. This is one of the times when we need to think about how to involve the private sector. We spoke earlier about sponsorship, which should be encouraged. Traditional financial institutions, such as banks and microfinance institutions must be encouraged to do so because our research has shown that most often it is the uncertainty that slows down the momentum of private investors. There is also a lack of knowledge of the sector. These actors must therefore behave like entrepreneurs and know how to put together a business plan to convince the donor to invest. We need to change the game, i.e. convince the private sector, by means of legislative incentives and discuss financing rates.
Do you think the advent of digital technology in the cultural and creative industries can serve as a channel to really get the sector’s development underway?
Today the cultural goods and services sector needs digital technology, just like in other business sectors. It cannot do without it because today, purchases and orders are made online. With especially COVID-19, where physical contact is prohibited as part of the response to the pandemic, digital technology is the only way to develop the exchange of cultural goods and services both at the sub-regional and international levels. Therefore, digital technology has more than ever its role to play, especially in these times of pandemic.