2010 World Cup: Time to Launch Creative Economy

Published on 5th May 2008

TheWorld Cup 

For six weeks in 2010, billions of viewers across the globe will focus their eyes on South Africa during the World Cup. Thousands of football fans will flock to the home of Shaka Zulu to support their favorite soccer teams. An estimated 15,000 accredited TV commentators, cameramen, crew and technicians are expected to facilitate live coverage of the games. It is going to be booming business for tour operators, airlines, hotels, cell phone service providers, advertisement agencies, the list is endless.

But how much in billions of dollars is Africa likely to mint out of this event?  It will depend on the level of confidence and mindset that we develop before 2010.  It is important that African countries consider the fact that although the event will be in South Africa; it belongs to Africa. This is a unique marketing opportunity that the Mandela campaign has given the continent. African governments should get out of their bigotry and nationalism/sovereignty claptrap and proactively prepare their citizens to join this gold rush down South.  

We must urgently position our creative industry for this event by investing in our infrastructure and security to attract World Cup fans to use our roads enorute to Johannesburg. It is time to invest in our rich cultural diversity and and performing arts in readiness to feed the hungry eyes of the World. This is the time to bring out the African creativity that is perpetually suffocated by donor subsidised government systems.  

Individual Africans must use the World Cup event to grasp the fact that although our mindset makes us see poverty, we are wealthy. Why will the world spend billions of dollars to watch 22 able bodied men chasing  an inflated animal skin (may be synthetic these days)?  Deep reflection will show you musicians, designers and food vendors among others earning  millions of dollars from this event. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Africa trade in creative products is only at 0.4% of World's USD 424.4 billion - trade as of 2005! 

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa should be used to rally African strategists to help uplift the continent's USD 1.7 billion trade in creative products to a higher level. Africa Union's Nairobi Plan of Action of 2005 for Cultural Industries in Africa must be removed from the shelves and taken to the people. It is not enough to whine about alien culture invading Africa when we do little to force our policy makers to promote a friendly business environment that should not only protect our creativity but also help in the commercialisation of the same. We should therefore measure the success of African Union on how effective they will be in making it easier for the 54 nation - states in Africa to drive down to Johannesburg to sale their creative arts and mint money at as private citizens. 

Africa is very rich in original ideas and imagination that can be expressed in text, sound or image to generate wealth. In our quest to industrialise Africa, we have frowned upon art and thought we should convert each one into a scientist. In the process, we have started loosing valuable aspects of our creative culture which we would ordinarily have used to launch ourselves to industrialisation.

The creative economy related products such as cameras, computers, broadcasting and audiovisual equipment hit a mark of USD 274 billion in exports from developing countries in 2005. Talk of industrialization in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore and you clearly see strategists tapping into the World's creative economy. We have ignored our creative economy by erroneously viewing African music, art, design, games to be either evil (for example eshilemba in Kenya), waste of time and uncivilised!  Creative economy can serve as the most strategic launching pad of competitiveness because culture is unique with a given people.

We should discourage our youth from investing too much in reproducing American art in Africa and rather promote them to market our art to the outside World.  Idle youth can borrow an idea from the mariachis of Mexico who literally hawk live music in entertainment spots and on highways! Instead of our government's cultural department using music and art as a preserve for politicians and tourists, they should create a commercial agency that can help transform our youth into superstars overnight.

Our poverty is artificial because Africa is rich in culture and we have simply failed to commercialise it. We have an education system and cultural socialisation that makes us look out to the rich nations for help and ignore the gold in our hands. To be a little harsher on ourselves - we behave like the fabled dog that dropped a bone in water in the quest to seize a reflection of the same. Africans must stop looking out there for bones (minerals, culture, creative ideas) because we already have them here. All we ought to do is study how developed societies successfully transform almost everything and makes it assume commercial value.

Next time you meet a 'poor' traditional dancer, help them get to the bank and the Ministry of Culture will suddenly turn into a wet one! Come 2010, we should all be set to market Africa to the World through the Johannesburg exit!

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