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Interview with Raoul Rugamba, founder of the Africa in Colors platform: “Empowering CCI actors »

The African cultural and creative field, a sector with a certain economic potential, only needs to be valued to realize its full potential. A challenge that Rwandan Raoul Rugamba, founder of Africa in Colors, a structure dedicated to the continent’s creative industries, is addressing today. Interview.  

 

Launched in 2018, the Africa in Colors initiative is dedicated to promoting African cultural and creative industries (CCI). Could you explain the concept? 

Africa in Colors was born from the idea of making a living out of our activity in the entertainment sector, and this by making sure that companies operating in this sector can create jobs and sustainable income for themselves and their country. However, we quickly realized that this challenge – to make a living from our business – was also the challenge of many of our partners, both in Rwanda and elsewhere in Africa. This observation logically led us to adopt a pan-African vision. 

“We empower the cultural and creative industries by providing them with the skills, knowledge and platforms needed for their global reach » 

We then realized that if we wanted to find a sustainable solution to this problem, we needed to take a global approach, operating as one entity and bringing the various players together, which could only be done through a pan-African cultural and creative ecosystem. The ecosystem would not only bring about the positive changes we wanted to see, but would also be able to create decent jobs and generate revenue for us, the players in the sector, as well as for our countries. We therefore defined three main pillars to achieve our goal. They are education, collaboration and access to finance, respectively. In short, we are empowering African cultural and creative industries by providing them with the skills, knowledge, and platforms needed for their global reach.

Africa in Colors has expanded just like the changes underway in the CCI sector which have been accelerated by the COVID19-related crisis. What do you think about these developments?

I am truly proud and grateful for the progress we have made so far, despite the challenges of the pandemic. In general, in many countries around the world – and in our case, in Africa – there has been a growing awareness of the resilience of the CCI sector, but even more so of its huge potential. In some cases, the profits generated by this or that business segment (video games, video and music streaming offers, cloud activities, digital marketing…) or company have been enormous. All this, without any support from public authorities. Many have realized that CCIs can offer unsuspected opportunities and that they can have a positive ripple effect on other sectors. 

« The COVID-19 crisis has brought positive changes to the CCI sector»

In a way, the health crisis born from COVID has brought positive changes to the CCI sector. In Africa In Colors, for example, we have managed to: create a network of more than 3,000 actors spread over 26 countries; signed agreements with the Rwandan government and several institutions to improve the sector’s ecosystem; invited leaders of the CCI space to meet and discuss ways to optimize their operating environment; and empowered more than 700 young people from 10 African countries. 

 Should CCIs be used to revive post-COVID African economies? 

Absolutely. I don’t think we should even have any other options if we want to drive a real economic recovery. Africa needs to increase its “soft power”, to make the most of the talents it has. As a reminder, before the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa needed to create at least 18 million jobs per year just to absorb the young people entering the workforce. Today, that number may have doubled, and with the way the health crisis has changed things, some jobs have simply disappeared, making it even harder to replace them.

« CCI is a sector requiring above all, talent and creativity»

From this point of view, CCIs offer real alternatives to African countries to reduce the unemployment rate of young people, insofar as it is a sector that requires, above all, talent and creativity. Better still, by betting on this sector, African countries would be able to position their young generations for the jobs of the future, such as AI, AR, VR, which are at the heart of creativity. This would create the necessary jobs, while building an inclusive, future-oriented economy that allows young workers to meet their needs and contribute to their country’s activity. Another reason to focus on CCIs is their ability to stimulate growth in other sectors (tourism, hospitality, etc.), which together account for a significant share of national GDP. Ultimately, if African countries improve their “soft power” through CCIs, they will be able to better position themselves in global markets, attracting more investment and strengthening local value chains. 

Concretely, what does your platform bring to its members?

We have a large network that consists of both young entrepreneurs and business people, operators, innovators, policy makers, non-profit organizations, investors… However, each of these groups needs the others for different reasons.

« Our aim is to get all pieces together, bring out diverse experiences and expertise, notably through the physical or virtual meeting platforms we organize »

From this starting point, our objective is to get all these pieces together, to bring out diverse experiences and expertise, notably through the physical or virtual meeting platforms that we organize. Recently, we launched, in partnership with the Empower Africa organization (founded by Ezi Rapaport, heir to the Israeli diamond traders’ family) a community platform that will enable everyone to connect, exchange and do business. We are also working on a digital solution that will facilitate access to markets and collaborations between CCI players to better seize opportunities in Africa.

In what way is the digitalization of CCI-related activities important? 

When the coronavirus broke out in early 2020, we were in the process of organizing the largest ICC festival in Rwanda. That event was supposed to gather an audience of about 10,000 people from all over the world, and which was of course cancelled due to the pandemic. We then looked for alternatives that led us to adopt digital solutions, like our digital festival “Africa in Colors festival”, which was a great success. 

“Based on this successful experience, we have been asked to assist other companies in organizing their own virtual events and activities” 

Based on this successful experience, we were then asked to assist other companies in organizing their own virtual events and activities, including advising them – with our partner Net-Info – on the digital tools to adopt and the training aspect of their use. 

In some cases, once the online trainings/workshops were completed, we were able to further assist some people in turning their initial ideas into a tangible product/business or in helping them to be potential recipients of large grants. From this point of view, the COVID-19 pandemic has only reinforced the use of technology, which has become essential in many cases: it allows you to get your products/services in front of a larger number of people; it allows you to better manage your customer relationship (who are your customers? where is your best market base?); it allows you to generate multiple revenue streams, across multiple markets; and it allows you to look ahead and project your products into the future, which is important for an entrepreneur who always wants to be ahead of the curve.

To conclude, how do you see the future of Africa in Colors? 

With the massive vaccination campaigns launched in most countries and the economic recovery, we should have more opportunities. Governments will also be allocating more funds to businesses and more people will be looking to rethink their careers. This is ultimately conducive to the three pillars of CCI success that we at Africa In Colors seek to develop, namely capacity building – we plan to empower 5,000 young Africans by 2022; creating more platforms for collaboration between CCI players; and facilitating access to finance through close collaboration with African governments.

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