African Creative Eonomy Conference 2013

Sabelo Mkhabela

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The 2013 African Creative Economy Conference, which is a sharing of creative ideas was held in Cape Town at the City Hall from 6 - 9 October.


The African Creative Economy Conference (ACEC) is a three-day program of intense sharing of information and creative ideas. The conference was relevant to Cape Town as it is the World Design Capital for 2014. It focuses on Africa’s creative industry and how to, in simple terms, earn a living from your craft as a creative. The third ACEC, hosted by the Arterial Network and  the Cape Craft & Design Institute, was held in Cape Town at the City Hall from the 6th to the 9th of October 2013 with the first one having been held in Nairobi in 2011 then Dakar in 2012. Hosted in a different African country each year, it boasts guest speakers from all around the globe.

The event kicked off with a cocktail and keynote address on the evening of the Sunday that fell on the 6th of October. The conference officially commenced on Monday, October 7 and went on until Wednesday, October 9 with a cocktail and a welcome by the City of Cape Town, the Ministry of Arts and Culture and chairperson of the Arterial Network, Koekor Amarteifio. The City Hall Sessions, featuring performances from some of Africa’s musicians including Kenyan songstress Suzanna Owiyo (who was also a speaker during the event) concluded the opening night. On Thursday was the Arterial Network 4th Biennial Conference.

The main focus as, mentioned earlier, was how creatives can earn a living from their craft and also to highlight the potential contribution of the creative industry to the continent’s economy. Speakers included key players in the African economy, African creative entrepreneurs and funders of cultural and art  projects from both African states and  outside the continent. Creative entrepreneurs shared challenges they faced while still starting out and how they overcame them. They shared challenges they are still facing; such as lack of facilities and of course funding, difficulty of the African market and resistance from society towards their chosen careers. Funders shared their successes and failures, the projects they have funded, their annual budgets as well as future projects they will be embarking on. They also shared their missions; “We are not a funder or investor in the cultural business but a partner,” stated one speaker. A majority of them stated that their missions and “dreams” were to benefit artists and help them earn a living.


A majority of the presentations had a couple of sentiments in common – that there is a lot of talent in Africa but it is not being invested in, it’s a challenge for African creatives to earn a  living out of their crafts, the lack of facilities and funding is still a prevalent problem leading to Africa’s share of the creative economy being extremely low, there’s still a stigma attached to choosing art as a career and, on a positive note, there is a demand for African art in the global market.

The funders themselves aren’t operating without any challenges. Volatile political situations in many African states is a challenge to foreign funders especially. “The development of the art sector still needs a lot of time and patience,” stated Idriss Nor, project manager of the DOEN foundation from Amsterdam. The level of education in some African states is still proving to be a problem.

The most positive fact echoed by most of the speakers is that there is a rise in demand for art mostly because of the rise in the emergence of the middle class and economic transformation. It is a fact that for one to appreciate art, they have to be introduced to it at an earlier age and develop a taste for it. There is also an increase in demand for African art in non-African states like BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China).

Overall, the conference was an eye-opener especially for creatives looking for funding – a convincing proposal is pretty much what stands between a project and a funding opportunity. A lot of networking occurred, contacts were exchanged and potential partnerships were born. There were some musical performances and the African Creative Market worked as a platform for artists to showcase their crafts to the plethora of representatives at the event.

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Images by The African Creative Economy Conference .