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Stemming corruption in creative industries and using the arts to fight greed

The Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs) in Africa have the potential to contribute significantly to GDP and boost socio-economic development by providing diverse employment opportunities for Africans if an adequate amount of resources are allocated to the sector.

In countries and regions where investments have been made in CCI’s, economies have witnessed significant earnings. For example, in the USA, the creative sector contributes US$ 800 billion per annum and globally the CCIs generate annual global revenues of up to US$ 2,250 billion.

The potential for employment and growth in CCI’s is further supported by the low barriers to entry in traditional creative sectors due to the use of local materials, knowledge, skills, and technologies; hence there is a positive bearing on inter-sectoral growth in its provision for market opportunities for a wide variety of goods and services available at the local level. Furthermore, cultural products are expressed not only in terms of material goods and services but they also embody values, sentiments, beliefs, world views and individual as well as collective memories which can be packaged and marketed commercially to various audiences.

Through the declaration of 2021 as the Year of the Arts, Culture and Heritage, the African Union (AU) recognises the potential for the CCIs to promote unity in society, as well as hasten the process of restructuring and growing economies through the creative sector. The Theme also calls to the fore the need for commitment by policymakers to create an enabling environment for investment in the development of cultural industries including allocating the necessary and adequate resources, legislative action, and implementing policies and programmes aimed at establishing a more robust and sustainable creative industries sector.

The growth and development of the Creative Economy on the continent has not only been hampered by inadequate investment, the sector has also been stifled by graft and other corrupt practices. From the colonial era, corruption in the creative industry has been witnessed as African artworks and artefacts were taken out of Africa before, during and after colonisation, to modern-day graft where artists continually lose their earnings through misappropriation of royalties, diversion of funds earmarked for the sector, copyright fraud, piracy of intellectual work, and bribery and exploitation of cultures such as gift-giving to advance corruption.

Corruption has also led to the flooding of the African market with harmful alien cultural products that have a destructive effect on national cultural identities. Cases of graft have also been registered where African cultural products have been fraudulently shipped to developed countries from where the products are re-exported to Africa and traded as foreign goods. The existence of corruption in the arts, culture and heritage sector, in either small or large scale trends, calls for refocused efforts, adoption of legal, institutional and practical measures to sustainably stem graft in the industry. The existence of legislation must be fully supported with strong enforcement.

The African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption offers practical recommendations and credible response to stem the culture of impunity and corruption for political, social, economic and cultural stability. The Convention acts as a guiding framework for the work of the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC) which is at the forefront of working with key stakeholders and CCIs players to address issues of graft in the creative sector both within and outside the continent.

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