Survey on Rwanda’s creative, cultural industries highlights work ahead

Survey on Rwanda's creative, cultural industries highlights work ahead
Survey on Rwanda's creative, cultural industries highlights work ahead

Africa-Press – Rwanda. The current state of Rwanda’s creative industries is suboptimal. The latest findings from the British Council’s mapping of Rwanda’s creative and cultural industries reveal that, despite industry growth, there is a need for further efforts to ensure the sector thrives.

This document, the British Council’s first attempt (in five years) to get a deeper understanding of the creative and cultural industries in Rwanda, aims to provide a set of recommendations as to the role the British Council and their partners can play in contributing and adding value to the arts ecosystem.

Abdi Hassan, the head of the British Council in Rwanda, stated at the report dissemination event held at the Kigali Public Library that the British Council serves as the cultural organisation of the UK.

“We think culture, and particularly culture and creative industries, are vital and really important, both for the culture of the country and, secondly, as an opportunity for young people for economic advancement and for better life and skills opportunities.”

The committee gathered input from representatives of the visual arts and design, audio-visual, performance, and literature sectors. Its main discoveries are organised into five areas; livelihood and job creation, market access and circulation of work, training and capacity enhancement, diversity and inclusion, and policies and representation.

The foremost challenge in Rwanda’s creative sector is reported to be a lack of secure income generation, with 76 per cent of participants considering it a serious issue. A significant portion of creatives earns modest incomes, with 40 per cent making less than Rwf1 million annually. Income instability hampers their ability to feel secure or invest, and grants, though seen as accessible to only a few, are perceived as having a high management cost, the report says.

Clearly, much work needs to be done in enhancing inclusivity as indicated by the report, which underscores ongoing concerns regarding diversity and inclusion.

Women are outnumbered by men in all sub-sectors, with ratios sometimes as high as 4 to 1, facing unequal earnings and challenges stemming from gender norms. Efforts targeting those with disabilities or from minority communities are limited.

The report also points out that existing policies and structures in Rwanda’s creative sector are not always well understood or trusted, causing confusion, but there is a strong desire for improved governance and policies, with 76 per cent expressing the need for enhanced policy support from decision and policy makers.

Market access and the circulation of creative work face obstacles due to the scarcity of production and exhibition spaces, highlighted as a serious issue by 62 per cent of those surveyed. Social media aids in promoting work within existing networks, but accessing new international markets proves challenging.

The need for training and capacity-building in areas influenced by digital and new technologies is growing, with a call for professional training in technical aspects and creative industries management.

The report notes: “Despite the success of specific arts education institutes, creatives who work with youth and communities bemoaned a lack of focus on creative education in mainstream education.”

What needs to change? The starting point is education. To cultivate a diverse and skilled talent pool, creativity within the curriculum across all schools must be prioritised. Addressing inequality in access and opportunities is crucial in the professional sphere. While entry schemes play a role, they need to be reinforced, expanded, and adequately funded to endure over time.

“Encourage students to study arts and creative subjects as much as science and technology to meet the demands of the rapidly growing sector,” said one attendee.

Panel experts from the creative and cultural industries concurred with these observations. They proceeded to suggest measures to address these challenges, leveraging their expertise and drawing from personal experiences.

For instance, Jemima Kakizi, a multidisciplinary artist and curator, shared with the audience that in the sector, “some men were claiming not to know any women artists. In response, women in the industry can unite to enhance their visibility, eliminating the basis for such claims.”

Additional panellists featured in the discussion were Dida Nibagwire, co-founder and director at L’espace, who served as the moderator, Anne Mazimhaka, creative director at Illume studio, Melody Sango, Programme Manager for Culture Connects at the British Council’s Sub-Saharan Africa Arts, and Ambassador Robert Masozera, Director General of the Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy.

Highlighting the importance of integrating the creative industries into Rwanda’s economic growth strategies, Omar Daair OBE, the British High Commissioner to Rwanda, cautioned against missing out on potential opportunities and failing to acknowledge the commercial potential within the sector.

Investment in the film industry with support for local filmmakers and the organisation of film festivals, efforts to preserve cultural heritage, promotion of traditional arts and crafts both domestically and internationally, investment in education and training programmes for artistic talent, and the embrace of technology and innovation in the creative sector are just some of the ways that the government has engaged with the sector, creating a supportive ecosystem and facilitating growth.

However, the ambassador would like to see a national strategy for Rwanda that links culture and the creative industries and economy in a way comparable to those that exist in the science sector.

“There’s a real economic benefit to the growth of a cultural sector in any city, in any country. When we think about all these conferences that people come for here in Rwanda, and particularly being able to enjoy cultural experiences, being able to abide by art, and being able to really get to know the country from its artists, I think that is a really valuable part of the experience that people can have when they visit Rwanda,” he said.

“So it really is beneficial, I think, to keep promoting that and to keep growing the sector. We want to keep tourists in Kigali one more day. Keeping them in Rwanda so that they can enjoy all these wonderful creative enterprises, I think, is really valuable.”

Institutions like the British Council and the Ministry of Youth are well-positioned to facilitate these connections; Sandrine Umutoni, the Minister of Youth, added on behalf of the ministry that one of their recent mandates, explaining the establishment of culture as a new institution, involves “solidifying the clarity of vision among young people, making sure that they know why they are doing what they are doing. And then our job at the policy level is to identify all the different stakeholders and make sure that their initiatives or their solutions do not contradict one another or are not redundant.”

And for them to be able to do that, explained Umutoni, “it means going around the different institutions, whether they are local, international, or all of the development partners, to be able to identify all the areas that can really push the economic empowerment of our young people, not only here in Rwanda but also at the international level.”

Engaging in partnerships with companies in the commercial domain of the creative industries holds the potential to provide essential capacity-building opportunities for core cultural organisations, particularly young artists aged 18 to 30 in Rwanda.

Hassan cites an example, “the So Creative Learning Platform will be launched in the coming months, and after the training, financial grants will be awarded to those who successfully complete the training, allowing them to apply the creative economy skills acquired during the training.”

Attendees indulge in a networking session after the report dissemination event.

Omar Daair OBE, the British High Commissioner to Rwanda, cautioned against missing out on potential opportunities and failing to acknowledge the commercial potential within the sector.

Head of British Council Abdi Hassan interacts with attendees at the dissemination event.

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