Expert Interview – The Creative Economy in Zimbabwe According to Florence Mukanga-Majachani
Can you please present yourself to our audience?
My name is Florence Mukanga- Majachani. I have over 6 years experience facilitating the implementation of more efficient and culture-sensitive development policies and programmes in Africa. In the past I have worked for the Observatory of Cultural Policies in Africa- based in Maputo and for Arterial Network in Cape Town. Currently I am a part-time lecturer in the field of arts and culture management (University of Zimbabwe) and an independent research consultant for various organisations.
What is the state of the cultural and creative industries in Zimbabwe?
In Zimbabwe there has been a growing recognition of the importance of cultural industries. There are a number of Zimbabwean artists that have earned a deserved reputation for being professional and dedicated. The country also has a flair for cultural industries that has great potential to penetrate local, regional and international markets and make substantial economic returns but government support programmes for the development of these industries have been very few. Generally, the competitiveness and growth of cultural industries in Zimbabwe have been constrained by a number of factors such as lack of government financial support for the production and promotion of quality arts and cultural products that can compete at international markets. This lack of investment has been perpetuated by a shallow understanding of the potential that these industries have in promoting economic development.
What is the situation of creative and cultural entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe?
At the base of the pyramid of the Zimbabwean creative industries are economic formations which are small (2-10 persons) emerging, proprietor managed and mostly not registered with the registrar of companies but with the National Arts Council. From a legal standpoint these are self-employed in most cases. In this category exist well over 90% of bands, sound and recording studios, informal art and craft, art galleries, film makers, theatre groups, dance ensembles, poets and fashion designers among others. There is a huge number of individual operators in the sector, gaining livelihood from the creative industries.
While this part of the Creative Economy looks chaotic, unregulated and disorganised (in the sense of association) it is productive, flexible and often highly skilled. It exhibits a high degree of entrepeneurial and financial acumen. While there is zero access to loan capital (except private loans) and very little government investment, capital is generated, on the whole, through clever business deals, massive fundraising, and energetic marketing.
There is also a category of established artists who have become household names locally, regionally and internationally. This is where the likes of Oliver Mtukudzi and Dominic Benhura, among others, belong. These artists are doing well both at home and internationally.
Another whole category is of citizens from deep rural Zimbabwe such as Binga, Lupane and Nyanyadzi amongst others, who are already producing unique and quality products such as baskets, mats, crafts and wood carvings etc. These rural communities are in most cases excluded in capacity building workshops which are usually aimed at equipping practitioners with skills around creative entrepreneurship. Yet tourism, which is one of Zimbabwe’s income earning sectors, greatly depends on cultural expressions of these indigenous communities.
What are the challenges the sector is facing in the near future?
Challenges range from lack of capital, limited access to regional and international markets and yet the local market is not so good due to lack of disposable income, fragmented and weak cultural governance structures starting at the level of arts associations up to the ministerial level where arts and culture are scattered in more than eleven ministries. There is also lack of proper arts education and training as a challenge, though the newly established Department of Arts and Culture within the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture is working hard to address this situation in schools.
While this is like that there are also opportunities which arts and culture enjoy such as the existence of dedicated and determined practitioners who have not allowed challenges to stop them from producing work.