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Artistes want fund to see them through the coronavirus crisis

In its May 14 petition to the minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the artists say Covid-19 has brought their industry to their knees


Dramatists perform during a cultural gala at the International University of East Africa in Kampala on May 2, 2018. Photo by Michael kakumirizi

The National Culture and Creative Industries Forum (NCCIF) in Uganda has petitioned government to establish a fund to support the recovery of the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs) during and post-Covid-19 in order to generate revenue, income and employment.

In its May 14 petition to the minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, NCCIF observes that the outbreak of Covid-19 has brought Uganda’s CCIs that include, among others, film, music, media, multimedia, audio visual, performing arts, visual art, fashion and design, literature and book publishing, to their knees.
The forum adds that CCIs were on their pathway to becoming a dominant economic sector given its contribution to GDP that stood at three per cent in 2017 and job opportunities, especially for the youth.

“We are pleased to petition your office to establish a fund to support the recovery of CCIs during and post-Covid-19. The fund is required to stimulate creativity and production, support CCI enterprises to rebound back, expand market platforms, including digital, develop skills of the practitioners and thereby grow the capacity to generate government revenue, create wealth and more jobs, especially for the youth,” the petition reads in part.

According to NCCIF, the fund to include low interest loans should be awarded on a competitive basis.
“The minimum target is 500 projects every year done individually or as collaboration. The objectives of the fund would include to stimulate creativity and production; to support CCI enterprises to rebound back post-Covid-19; to expand market platforms, including digital; to develop skills of the practitioners,” the petition reads further.

“We’re looking at Shs37 billion ($9.4million) for the start to support all the domains,” Charles Batambuze, the NCCIF chairperson, Policy Advocacy Committee, says.
As to the measures that NCCIF has put in place to ensure this fund is not abused by the beneficiaries, Batambuze says: “All beneficiaries must be full members of any of the domain associations that make up the forum so they are bound to a professional code of practice. Secondly, we’re working on professionalising the domains by providing practice licenses that can be revoked in case of such things as abuse and other unethical conduct.”
Daily Monitor has learnt that the Gender ministry has held meetings with members of NCCIF where several options are being explored.

NCCIF is a private sector-led body with representative countrywide membership drawn from all the domains of arts and culture as provided for by the Uganda National Culture Policy (2006). Its mandate includes, among others, to advocate and lobby for the creative industries sector; contribute to the implementation of the national culture policy; and to build capacity of members.
According to NCCIF, Uganda’s CCIs have demonstrated growing potential to generate government revenue, create wealth and jobs through the development, production or exploitation of intellectual property.

A 2014 mapping study found that approximately 148,371 (42 per cent female and 58 per cent male) persons were employed by creative industries, out of which 104,278 are permanently employed by CCIs and about 92,129 are professionals. A recent survey indicates that every six to seven youth out of 10 graduates from university were joining CCIs and thriving more in low income settlements.

Conflicting figures have emerged gauging what the sector has lost as a result of the cancellation of cultural events during the more than three-month lockdown.
To track the impact caused by Covid-19 on the work of freelance creatives in Uganda, KQ Hub Africa carried out an online survey from March 17 to April 1. Based on this Covid-19 arts impact survey, the arts industry and artists collectively have lost more than Shs50m ($131,634) nationwide from the cancellation of more than 300 events, impacting 700 artists and their fans.
While the estimation by the government and event organisers put the losses at more than Sh15b ($39.4m) occasioned by the cancellation of cultural events during the lockdown that has disrupted the entire creative industry value chain, including production, distribution and marketing. However, government and event organisers do not indicate how they arrived at their figure.

But according to the KQ Hub Africa survey, 80 per cent of the artists and artist organisation respondents rely on these community events for a large proportion of their income to supplement their freelance earnings and sustain their livelihoods.
“Now that it is not the case, they fear this will affect them greatly. Artists are wondering what they all are going to do in this crisis. Most artists, managers, booking agents, DJs, sound engineers and bar staff have little or no savings, relying on regular gigs to cover their living costs,” the KQ Hub Africa survey adds in its April report titled “Covid-19 and Its Impact on Uganda’s Creative Industry.”
Addressing journalists at Uganda Media Centre in Kampala, on World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development on May 21, the Gender ministry reported that the cancellation of more than 300 cultural events caused an enormous economic, social and emotional cost to both the government and more than 700 artists.
“It has further considerably weakened the professional, social and economic status of artists, performers, creatives and cultural professionals,” Ms Peace Mutuuzo, the Minister of State for Gender and Culture, said.

The World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development 2020 was celebrated under the theme “Art, Culture and Crises: Opportunities and Challenges in Uganda.”
Ms Mutuuzo said her ministry and the Private Sector Foundation (PSF) will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to support the formalisation of culture and creative businesses into Small Scale Enterprises (SMEs) to claim their rightful place in the economy. She is optimistic that this will hugely contribute to reducing unemployment among the youth and women.

The government has come up with a draft stimulus package worth Shs4.7 trillion ($1.2b) to revive the economy occasioned by the ripple effects of the Covid-19.
It seeks to help struggling businesses stay afloat, create jobs, provide tax breaks and cheaper loans to SMEs to encourage spending and investment, and defending the Shilling to prevent imported inflation.
Government plans to recapitalise the Uganda Development Bank (UDB) with Shs1.9 trillion to boost the country’s production capacity by supporting manufacturing companies and SMEs access cheap capital credit. Government is prioritising vital sectors of the economy badly affected by the pandemic such as agriculture, ICT, manufacturing and import substitution.

But NCCIF argues: “It is estimated that there are 32,000 CCI enterprises, most of which ordinarily would not meet the criteria for business loans offered by UDB or the commercial banks. It is these micro and small enterprises that form the backbone of the CCI sector.”
“In the absence of direct sales and income from copyright royalties, the enterprises risk collapse. Government is, thus, called upon to step up their operations and survival by providing a fund to support the recovery of CCIs during and post-Covid-19,” NCCIF adds.
KQ Hub Africa is an East African youth collective, creative agency based in Kampala.

Covid-19 financial impact on music industry
A report released by the South African-based Music In Africa Foundation (MIAF) shows that the African music sector has registered losses since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis.
The report titled “The Financial Impact of Covid-19 on the African Music Sector,” captures the financial impact of Covid-19 on African music professionals, organisations and companies; provides an overview of the immediate needs of affected practitioners; anticipates further impact and shares useful tips and recommendations from industry operators.

According to the report, many individual professionals (40 per cent) reported losses ranging between $1,000 (Shs37m) and $5,000 (Shs185m). At least 28.2 per cent of the companies sampled experienced losses of between $10,000 and $50,000, and some organisations reported losses exceeding $1m.
The research also found that 64 per cent of individual professionals said they did not have any alternative source of income.
The report indicates that most individuals and companies (87 per cent combined), need some form of relief funding to survive.

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