Limited access to finance for the creative industries in most developing countries, and particularly here in Ghana, where there is no credit system specifically designed for the sector, leading to creative people having to literally compete for the traditional sources of funds from banks and credit institutions with other palpable industries, poses the biggest challenge for the sector, whose products are often intangible.
Yet, other challenges include a lack of understanding of the creative processes and the evolving nature of creative produce by financial institutions, the lack of good business practices by creative practitioners, the lack of statistical information of the sector in general and expensive lending terms.
Recent research, which seeks to harness the opportunities embedded in the sector, initiated by the Institute of Music and Development (IMD), in collaboration with the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), some implementing partners, regulatory bodies, and other civil society groups, with funding from BUSAC, identified the above challenges, as well as many opportunities for the sector and have put them in perspective.
The Creative Sector Medium Term Strategic Plan (CSMTSP), developed under the framework of the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA) 2011 – 2013 of the National Development Planning Council (NDPC), is currently at a sensitisation stage, and will, once ongoing work by IMD is completed, help in the development of important statistical data for the whole creative sector, which can be used by many civil society groups and government agencies and departments to quantify various aspects if the sector.
This is most urgent if we are to develop and strengthen Ghana’s creative economy in ways that would enable the nation to actively engage in the world trade in creative goods and services.
As it stands, Ghana has adopted the UNCTAD definition of the creative sector, which identifies nine main domains – cultural sites, traditional cultural expressions, visual arts, performing arts, publishing, audio visuals, new media, creative services, and design. These domains are functional, with the performing arts and the audiovisuals being the most dominant domains.
That is not surprising! Take, for instance, Nigeria’s film industry. It is now the third largest in the world, with a net worth of some US$250 million a year and a direct employer of nearly half a million people. It is fast becoming a significant contributor to the Nigerian economy. With its value now quantified somewhat, the Nigerian creative sector can hold government to account and also make demands as they can point to their force as an industry.
The same cannot be said of Ghana’s creative industry.
In Europe, the creative domain in 2013 alone contributed some £76.9 billion to the UK economy, representing five per cent of the GDP, creating over 2.6 million jobs.
A report by IMD also showed a lack of specific legislation or policy on the creative industry in Ghana. This is in spite of the fact that there are a number of laws and policy documents that partly address the needs of the sector. These legislations and policies reveal that the existing regulations are fragmented and need to be consolidated to address the changing needs of the creative industries.
These existing laws are not dynamic in nature to address the changing phase of the creative industries.
Reviewing the strategic plans for the Ministries of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts and Justice and Attorney General’s Department suggests that strategies have been put in place to enhance the competitiveness of the industry.
Currently, two bills, the Broadcasting Bill and the Film Bill, are at advanced stages of being passed in Parliament. The bills have provisions, which include the setting up and strengthening of authorities to ensure proper oversight of the creative sector. This is great as political class will better aid in protecting the sector and improve resources to it.
The contribution of the creative industries to sustainable development has been recognised in many developing countries, and particularly in Asia. There, tailored cross-cutting policies are put in place to enhance their potential.
Creative Industry Fund
In Ghana, the creation of a creative sector fund with concessionary terms and an annual budgetary allocation is highly recommended to develop the sector.
The fund might grant credit to business that, based on evaluation, will be capable of repaying or may also participate in the equity of some business at the start-up and growing stages.
Other recommendations include incentives such as tax breaks to businesses that support the creative industries. In other jurisdictions such as the UK, creative financing models have been designed to assist businesses to have access to finance, including assisting them to put in place best practices by providing free business advice and linking businesses with financiers.
The time has come for the sector to be accorded a higher status than has been previously, as even among policy makers, there is a lack of understanding of what the creative industries really is, and the extent of the potential of its contribution. Members of Parliament and many professionals and practitioners in the sector themselves must be educated. There is a great need for everyone to be better educated on the composition of the sector.
Encouragement should be given to public-private partnership (PPP) in building multi-purpose entertainment venues in Accra and Kumasi, in particular, with other regional capitals also having a sizeable venue for entertainment instead of using sports fields.
High on the agenda should be business parks or incubators, where creative industries and practitioners can be nurtured and grown into businesses.
These can be done through PPPs where government provides land to a private partner to develop.
Critically, it is artistes that come second only to footballers, whose antics ‘sell’ nation’s best. A better appreciation of a country by association with a popular export such as music, cinema or ‘soccer skills’ can lead to their products, including even their raw materials, being more easily accepted in world trade. Therefore, now is the time to treat culture with business strokes!