Tanzania’s creative industry

Posted on July 18, 2016 01:02 pm

If you have been lucky to travel to Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar Es Salaam estates like Mbagala, Kinondoni, Vingunguti, Bom Bom, Gongo La Mboto, Tabata among others you can agree with me Tanzania has one of the finest artists you can find anywhere in Africa.Having been able to travel to more than a dozen East and Southern African countries, I must say only South Africa can compete with talent from the land Kilimanjaro.It is all too easy in this city of malls and traffic jams to give up all hope of stumbling across inspiring spaces and instead, make do with the art dotted around Grand Tanzania, the odd bit of street art more often than not seen through a Daladala (public transport vans) window and Bongowood blockbusters.One of those impressed by Tanzania’€™s culture and history and was inspired by the untapped potential the country has to monetise its arts and culture industry.I was involved in the creative industries in Australia back more than a decade ago and took art house cinema, vast galleries and affordable performance art for granted. In Australia there is a culture of funding the arts to support individual or collaborative creative practice and to utilize the arts to empower disadvantaged communities or demographics. As such, it was no surprise that the practitioners and champions of this dynamic scene quaked in their boots upon hearing that the Australian government intended to cut its arts funding as my friend and Green party M.P Adam Bandt wrote on twitter during the national budget few weeks back.

Tanzania’€™s creative industries are similar to the Australia’s creative sectors that include music, film, fashion, architecture and interactive gaming, with the addition of cuisine€” and it reaped the benefits of this fast-growing industry. I must stop here to mention that the new Tanzanian President has begun to sow the seeds of cultural celebration, with a particular emphasis on local culture but Dar Es Salaam is home to transmigrants from all countries in East Africa, mainland Tanzania and Islands of Zanzibar, non Africans, and with them they have brought their music, dances, arts, crafts and cuisine. The benefits of promoting the creative industries could be felt by all of these diverse citizens. But there needs to be support from the government, related industries and other stakeholders in the form of funding, collaboration and mentoring.In total there are about 10 million middle-class and affluent consumers in Tanzania and this number will increase by 2020 to roughly 15 million people. As the number of affluents increases so does the amount of disposable income, meaning individuals are more inclined to spend€” and invest on lifestyle choices, such as art, performances and technology. Programs could be set up to promote support of the arts domestically ‘€” by Tanzanians for Tanzanians.Despite its size ‘€” a population of at least 50 million people living in both mainland and Zanzibar Islands, Tanzania is outward looking and aware of the potential of cooperation with other countries to promote and develop its creative economy.

As such, it is no surprise to learn tourism and arts are coordinated by the same ministry, the country has acknowledged the potential the two sectors, combined, have to bring economic benefit and work toward alleviating poverty. After discussing the subject of funding for the arts with many of my Tanzanian friends the topics of corruption and well connected individuals often crops up but under the new government of famed anti graft fighter President John Magufuli the corrupt barons will have no space to breath. It seems that the vibrancy and potential of the arts are somewhat forgotten in favor of lining people’€™s pockets and giving jobs to friends.Overall, Tanzania promotes the nation’€™s arts in the form of businesses ‘€” which support other industries through creative activities, such as advertising and software ‘€” and products ‘€” which can be enjoyed directly by end users and customers, such as performing arts and crafts. It is also committed to developing cultural parks at locations across the country to inject momentum into the countries cultural economy.Out of choice, people would choose the path that assists a route out of poverty and to become self sufficient. I believe that more should be done to empower the citizens of Dar Es Salaam and other cities to reap economic benefit from creative activities, directly and transparently.

Contador Harrison