Mr. President, My Take On The State Of The Creative Arts Sector!

Your Excellency, last Thursday you presented your third State of the Nation address to parliament since becoming President of Ghana in 2012. This year’s address, I must say, is arguably the most anticipated, all because of ‘dumsor’.

The power crisis, which you prefer to call ‘challenge’, has thrown the country into state of uncertainty, more so when the many timelines you have given to have it fixed have gone with the umbrella that was blown away by the whirlwind.

I listened to you, and I have read your address. Was I inspired? I saw hope, because you have good faith for this country, I believe. After all, faith, it is said, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. So for hope, I can only hope, but substance? Sir, I am not too sure.

My uncertainty is borne out of how you captured the state of the creative arts industry. Some industry players in the sector were not happy with you; I mean those who have not already given up on you. Almost a week down the line, how you captured the industry doesn’t matter to industry players any more. Sir, I would side with you when you said Ghanaians have short memories.

But your address, and what it offers or does not offer the industry, is in the cooler, because they are busily ‘fighting’ over awards. They made all the noise on Thursday and Friday. And like the typical Ghanaian media, they allow occurrences to set the agenda for them, instead of setting their own agenda. We talked, lamented and moaned, until some People and their Choices came up, injunction things, Sir. They are fighting over names.

Friday, passions were further ignited, and here over 25 million people were involved. The passion is still on, and it will be on until the year ends. It is a cycle.

That is the industry for you, but I don’t think you are awaiting fire from them before you act. You are on record as haven’t said that the creative industry is disorganised. I don’t want to believe again, that that is why you care less for that sector!

Sir, you are much aware of the importance of the creative arts. Prof. Mills’ government, in which you were the vice, created that ministry. We commended you, but the seeds that are needed to be nursed to become seedlings and grow into fruits, after seven years of the NDC’s creation, is still not procured. In fact where to sow the seeds, has not even been identified. Is there hope? I don’t think so.

Your Excellency, by your deeds, you portray a deep affection for the creative arts sector. You did host a number of industry players even when you were Vice President, and as President you have never hidden the fact that you have affiliation with influential industry players. Entrepreneur and film producer/ actor Selassie Ibrahim is your friend, if not ‘sister’. Influential musician Rex Omar, you know too well. Tonye Senaya of Horseman Shoes, your shoemaker, in whom you are well pleased, is a creative arts person. With these examples, it should not become too difficult to get the state of the creative arts industry and capture it in your address?

Oh Sir, I forgot you have two adorable and culture-sensitive women in that Ministry. Sir, the continuous promotion of “festivals and events such as the Homowo festival, Emancipation Day, Okwahuman Paragliding, National Chocolate Day among others” was all they could furnish you?

I understand the focus on festivals and culture. The Minister and her deputy, especially love Ghana, and do everything within their power to promote Ghana through their dressing and food choices. Sir, I know you are a tech-savvy. Take a stroll on their Facebook pages and see for yourself. You would be proud to be Ghanaian, Sir.

“I look forward to an enhanced and mutually beneficial partnership between the creative arts industry and Government in the coming months,” your words Sir, but what are the tangibles, so that we can prepare to meet you.

In your maiden State of the Nation address in 2013, you promised that you were committed to using Tourism as an instrument for the full realisation of the economic potential of our culture and creative arts. You said you were going to restructure the National Commission on Culture and reactivate the Culture Trust Fund. In 2014, you said you will “invest also in the creative industries, which have become a major source of employment and income for thousands of our people.”

Sir what about the promise to pass the Broadcasting Bill into law? Hints on the progress on these assurances would have been assuring. But you are in charge Sir, we can only complain.

From all indications, it appears you are very content with the people you have put in charge to ‘(wo) man’ the Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts Ministry. If you were not, you would have ‘reshuffled’ them. Sir, are you very sure they have fulfilled the performance contract you signed with them? Or they are there because you want to satisfy the creative arts people?

Your Excellency, the creative arts industry is too broad an industry to be taken for granted. It is the back bone of every economy. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) classifies creative industries into four broad groups: heritage, arts, media and functional creations. And these include Traditional cultural expressions, Cultural sites ,Visual arts, Publishing and printed, Design, Performing arts, Audiovisual, New media and Creative services – architectural, advertising, creative R&D, cultural and recreational.

Sir, need I bore you with statistics? I don’t think so. There are examples we all can read about. But at least in the music industry, I am sure the much-awaited MUSIGA research into the contribution of the music industry to Ghana’s GDP, which your government allocated funds for, is on your desk. Or it is yet to?

Freelance film journalist, Alexa Dalby in a contribution to an article on the viability of the creative industry in Africa, asserted that “Part of Africa’s projected 5.2% GDP growth rate in 2013 was attributed just to the popularity of Nollywood. It’s the country’s second- or third-largest employer and the third-largest film industry by value in the world after Hollywood and Bollywood, generating an estimated $500-$800m annually. It creates over 1m jobs in a Nigerian population of 168.8m; at 6%, this is almost the same percentage as the industry does in the US.”

And what has contributed to this feat that Nigeria is chalking? Prudent structures from the government. Alexa continued: “The Nigerian government made a $500m loan facility available for the entertainment industries under the Nigerian Creative and Entertainment Industry Stimulation Loan Scheme (NCEILS), released by the African Development Bank (AfDB). Of this overall fund, $200m is allocated to the film industry, and is packaged and distributed by the Bank of Industry and Nexim Bank.”

Your Excellency, the creative arts sector is waiting on you. What Ghana are you selling out there during your many travels? Do you tell the many people who adore the kente that is always on display, how poor the kente weaver is?

The way a nation deals with its cultural elements has a major impact on the nation’s image. I ask again Sir, what is Ghana’s image?

Published in ‘Flex Newspaper’ on March 4, 2015

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