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Staking a Claim for Africa’s Share of the Global Creative Economy Relies on Changing the Continent’s Narrative

Christine Mckeown

Written by Christine Mckeown.

Despite much global stereotyping as a land of poverty, corruption, failing infrastructure and conflict, Africa is in fact home to brilliant innovators, creatives, startups, technology hubs, renewable energy pioneers, agripreneurs, health care trailblazers… the list goes on and on. Africa is brimming with talent. And this talent is highly provocative for an international audience who for so many years have had little or no understanding of the ‘Mother Continent’, or the potential that can flow from this cradle of creativity.

One facet of Africa’s prowess that is making global waves is creativity. The creative expressions of African people are a complex blend of the unexpected that bring to light personal perspectives from the everyday mundane to the sublimely obscure. For many, ideas of African creativity are driven by visions of beaded trinkets, animal skin or wooden curios, wildlife themed ‘been there, seen that’ t-shirts and caps, wire souvenirs or woven baskets. These items, while African, are far removed from authentic creativity that resonates and stops people in their tracks, rooted in talent and craftmanship that is centuries old, found in stories, histories, legacies that are born in the region and brought to life in ways that tangibly influence and impact the world.

The world is waking up to Africa as a creative juggernaut in a global creative economy. We are increasingly finding ourselves in a space where we can be more authentic in expressing our creativity than we have ever been to lead the charge in influencing design, architecture, fashion, photography, advertising, trade… virtually everything.

Creativity that hits you directly in the ‘feels’, wherever you’re from, touches your humanity and draws you in – that even if you don’t understand it and resonates on a deeper level within you transcends all geographic and emotional borders. There are endless examples of the creativity coming from our continent right now that are having a massive impact not just in the creative landscape, but in addressing everyday African challenges and opportunities across the board.

Unleashing African creativity will be the enabler to opportunity

Africa’s creative industries are a pillar of growth. With a labour force that can grow between 12 and 16% every half decade to 2050, about 20 million jobs across Africa will need to be created if we are going to meet that demand. Africa’s creative economy has the potential to trigger a value chain between artists and entrepreneurs and create many of these jobs, but we governments and policy makers need to understand that creativity is the new currency and change archaic reforms so that we can reap its benefits

There has never been a more exciting time to start telling our cultural stories to break down the singular views of those who hold the monopoly over ideas and allow our own voices, our own storytelling to move to a beat of a different drum. The beat of self-expression and creative license to prosper within a globally competitive creative economy.

Creativity is fuelled by innovation and technology

Historically Africa has been left lagging during past industrial revolutions and accounts for 33 of the Least Developed Countries in the world. But with approximately 280-million young people between the age ages of 15 and 24, Africa’s tech-savvy youth are defining a new vision for economic growth, innovation and development. As the continent increasingly embraces tech, there is access to learning more, crafting more, playing more – the whole field opens substantially. Just think about probably history’s largest blank canvas which is sitting in front of us waiting to be the conduit for creating, exchanging and exporting creativity – the Metaverse.

Driven by creative connections made between people across the globe, the beauty of this space is that, globally, we are all standing together on the precipice. On the same ground, starting off from the same gates. Once we as African’s occupy this space with our own stories, we are going to be able to build wider and wider connections with tribes that no longer rely on colour, language, gender or location, but rather on similar mindsets. Ageism, racism, sexism, ethnicity, origin, religion will be a thing of the past. And then the world will see us shine.

The talent available on the continent is monumental and presents vast opportunities for creative-led jobs for Africans. We have the power right now to weaponise creativity - Imagine what the world would look like if all of Africa, as the world's second-largest and second-most-populous continent, unleashed its full creative potential. The beauty is that by having conversations that change Africa’s narrative globally to one of empowerment, growth and reimagined socioeconomic development there is no need to imagine – Africa’s dynamism will eventually speak for itself.

Find out more about PRCA Africa NextGen here.