In the past month, the Creative Economy Outlook Zimbabwe (CEOZ) accelerated its analysis of the state of the creative industry (CI) in the country. Following the previous analytical pieces that we released, we became aware that some in the industry held the notion that the government had done commendable work in uplifting the industry. The critics argued that the industry is to blame for failing to recognize the ‘enormous’ work done by the government of Zimbabwe in its attempt to set policy frameworks and to define the CI shape and form.
Though we have researched widely on this subject, we remain adamant that our critics might be spending a considerable amount of time reading the government’s manuscripts pertaining to this narrative, which might have led to the blurring of the line between the industry realities and that which remains in yet to be made public documents on the strides made by the government pertaining to the subject matter.
We hold the position that it is critical for CI stakeholders to converge and start a rigorous debate on the state of the industry in order to come up with proposals for the consolidation of the industry, which is highly fragile and fragmented due to policy vacuums, lack of clearly defined industry boundaries, lack of professionalism and the inherent exploitation of the industry by monopolies and other consumers of CI products.
An inaugural multi-stakeholders indaba is urgent and the starting point towards assessing the state of the industry – both its gains, losses and to marshal the plan for its competitiveness. This will form the foundation for wide consultations that are prerequisite to stimulate policy interventions towards a wholesale approach in the structuring of the industry and in enhancing its performance.
Our critics believe that we are raising demands for the government to start the process of consultations without a plan on how this process will eventually unfold. As industry players, we believe that given the strategic nature of the creative industry and how it has unlocked value in other nations on the continent, such as South Africa, Nigeria, Seychelles and Kenya among others, this should top the government's agenda.
If structured and managed well, this is the accepted way forward in attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) as the CI assumes the ambassadorial role in marketing the country globally.
Given the fragmented nature of the industry, the government and the rest of the stakeholders seem to view the CI as a hobby rather than a business with defined professional standards, clear policy propositions, defined curricula on the talent grooming side of the industry, quality standards and benchmarks among others.
The proposed inaugural multi-stakeholders indaba is the platform for the meeting of the minds of the various interest groups and will act as a vital step in defining the industry.
We repeat our position that, though we are calling for this indaba, it does not absolve the Government of Zimbabwe for failing to take the initiative to fill in the policy vacuums resulting in the fragmentation of an industry with so much potential. The CI actors pay taxes to the government in order that it will take the lead in creating an enabling environment for the respective industries to thrive. The government performs this role through various tools at its disposable such as policy formulation, incentives, subsidies and other non-fiscal measures.
As we continue assessing the state of the CI, we call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to treat the consolidation of the industry with the urgency it deserves and all the stakeholders to collectively push for the agenda to be placed on the Cabinet agenda. Both pundits and critics alike should come to terms with the fact that other countries are miles ahead in this debate. Our brief as the CEOZ is not to do the bidding of the Government of Zimbabwe, but to continuously remain relevant to industry needs and its wellbeing, while contributing to national development.
On such a footing, we call upon all the industry players to seek unity of purpose in advancing the struggle for the consolidation and welfare of the industry. Gone are the days when the creative industry was treated as an afterthought. As industry players, our charge is to give it form, shape and professional standards so that it is not only competitive locally but also exports our talent globally.