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How creative industries can solve unemployment

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Added 6th September 2018 12:37 PM

No one has come to a high standing to acknowledge and become an activist of culture and creative industries in Uganda.

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No one has come to a high standing to acknowledge and become an activist of culture and creative industries in Uganda.

By Amos Tindyebwa

Quite often and for a long time, no Ugandan Government has paid much needed attention to the role and potential creative and culture industries can play in turning around the Uganda economy.

No one has come to a high standing to acknowledge and become an activist of culture and creative industries in Uganda.

If I woke up today and find that Creative/culture industries are the top priority sector of Uganda with allocated trillion budget support like roads and energy, I would have lived my dream of 15 years of researching and writing in the culture and creative economy. As an economist one would wonder why I am not this time talking about trade, investment, macro economics, manufacturing, banking and financial sector among others but talking about creative and culture industries.

Taking the trend of Uganda in development issues poverty, unemployment, under development and expected developed is rooted in culture and the neglect of culture & creative industries will cost us the much needed development goals and employment for the next decades. However we can change this now.

Uganda’ as a country has talked about a sizeable GDP of USD 27.6 billion for years now. The country remains as a poor country standing by a ranking of 202 out of 229 countries (229 is the bottom line). According to the Labour market analysis conducted in Uganda in 2016, the challenge of unemployment in Uganda is much more related to the skills mismatch between job requirements and qualifications and this continues to grow with the quality of graduates we get from Universities. Further as an example, the incidence of under-education in skills mismatch is very high in Uganda at 73%. The skills mismatches are affected by under-education (73%) (poor education, low education and limited skills) and women have a higher incidence (77%) than men (69%).

The labour market in Uganda is fragmented by a narrow formal sector and an absorbing informal economy where we speak of the likes of Kiseka market, The Nasser road market, the Owino markets, Kikubo market and all markets across Kampala and Uganda, all constitute the informal economy. By the way today there is not nucleaus place in Urban Uganda today that generates high revenue earnings than these places of Nasser road, Kikubo, Kiseka market, owino among others and these places are largely informal business enclaves.

The total population in Uganda is roughly estimated at 38.3 million (2016 est) Out of which 17.2 million covers the labour force. Around three-quarters of the population are below the age of 30 years old and constitute the most agitating youth frustrated with unemployment across streets of Uganda and other major towns. If I state this differently, Uganda has one of the youngest and fastest growing populations in Africa, which is creating a high pressure on job creation needs and this is turning to be a political hot potatoe- youth unemployment.

With a skills mismatch, narrow industrial base, poor markets and ideologically pressures we shall continue to see pressure on Government to create jobs yet some of the agitators are non employable, not productive and non skilled youth but claim a legitimacy on employment needs.  On the survey for Labour market indicators by International Labour organization (ILO 2016), it is indicated that the employment-to-population ratio men are slightly more economically active than women by 85% and 79%. The total labour force participation rate in Uganda shows an increasing trend from 76% in 2005 to 85% in 2016. Also the youth have experienced a fast rise from 61% to 76%, respectively.  Estimations of both the unemployment and youth unemployment rates have been estimated at 3.5% and 5.8% in 2016, respectively.

With this in mind, I can assert confidently that creative Industries and many other culture industries have a significant potential to answer the needed employment opportunities. Actually many scholars regard culture Industries are Africa’s Untapped Gold. For instance UBOS made survey in 2013 and noted that there are more than 12,460 SMEs in culture and creative Industries in Uganda which number is likely to be much higher today 6 years down the road.

These SMEs are largely informal SMEs ranging from Music enterprises, film and video producers, audio visual media, crafts and accessories, performing arts, drama and entertainment enterprises, stage comedy, video and photography, Kiosks of music retailers, video halls, fashion houses, heritage and recreation to mention but a few. We have more and more youth enthusiastic to be part of Music, drama, film and cinema production, media, photography, fashion houses, stage plays and comedy and related performing arts than how many youth are willing to go in rural farming for coffee, maize, fruits and vegetables, poultry etc.

The Logic is these creative and culture industries are urban centred, take a white colour urban-outlook and look suitable for most youth who have graduated from institutions and universities and are residing in towns and cities. And these are youth also agitating for employment opportunities today than ever before. Creative Industries are emerge this time to be a sure way of absorbing this bursting youth in Urban environment in Uganda.

The incidence of long-term unemployment in Uganda is high at 29% (i.e. those unemployed one year or more as a percentage of the total unemployed). The share of youth unemployed in total unemployed is 58%, which indicates that the youth have special difficulties finding a job on the labour market. But as I stated creative Industries and culture industries groups can absorb youth both skilled and semi skilled and un skilled provided they demonstrate talent and interest. The Bourgeoning music Industry and entertain Industry in Uganda has already demonstrated this example of successful artists among youth who are earning big incomes and living a much better life than a public servant on Government pay role. If I use examples elsewhere in the world, there is no known industries in the United States more than Hollywood, there is no big known Industries in India more than Bollywood, Nigeria is not known for its Oil and gas but Nigeria Music and Movies.

Today an economist in Uganda is not known more than the leading artists like Chameleon, Bobi wine, Bebe cool, Eddie Kenzo, Julianna, Sheeba among others. It is easy to ask a Tourist or a visitor in Uganda to take you to  Theatre Labonita, Silk Events, National Theatre than asking him to show you where  Uganda Tourism Board or Uganda Export Board is located. This is how much culture and creative Industries are globally and locally become relevant and visible that we cant afford to miss the opportunities. Culture Tourism is on the rise and we must tap this potential. Ndere Centre every weekend hosts the biggest number of diplomatic community through its culture performance where a ticket is not less than 30,000 for Nationals and not less than shs 50,000 for Foreigners. A well renown artist in Uganda stage fees is approximately not less than shs. 2 million for 2 hours of stage performance. It does not matter whether this artist has a degree, or master but his talent has made his/her fortunes and so many people are employed under his/her talent. These are very serious income streams that we need to support to expand and reach many youth.

At the Global level, world trade for culture/creative goods and services was estimated at USD 624 billion in 2013. While the growth rate of this sector annually was estimated as 8.8 %. Developing countries exports for creative goods and services has been growing tremendously at a rate of 12.1% annually in the since 2002 . Big economies and successfully developed nations are leading in trade for creative/ culture goods such as the European Union leading in export of creative goods having export USD 150 billion in 2013 of creative goods and USD 120 billion in services. China, India, Jamaica and Nigeria lead the developing countries.

Creative Industries represent about 3 % of Global GDP much higher than all African combined total trade ration to Global Trade (which is just about 1%). Scanty assessment indicated that in 2009, Uganda generated approximately  UGX 12.6 Billion in tax revenue from Creative goods and services. Uganda exported approximately UGX 427 billion of creative goods and services (USD 239 million ). If the Government committed a reasonable subvention to creative Industries/culture industries through the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, this would create miracle impact on strengthening and organizing the sector for employment/job creation for Ugandans especially the youth both educated, non educated and skilled or unskilled.

Based on recent analysis it is estimated that about  UGX11.3 billion is revenue estimated to be derived from culture enterprises in Uganda  the baseline  taken to be approximately 12,460 SMEs in the sector. Culture and creative arts are estimated to generate approximately UGX 3.18 trillion to the economy in total business income based on analytical estimates. This income is approximately 3% of Uganda’s total GDP of USD 27.6 billion dollars in 2017. Given the regulatory requirements to formalize businesses the potential contribution to Government revenue is approximately UGX 2.6 billion from License fees and UGX 1.8 Billion from Registration of business fees. This could potentially be higher than over the Tax charges (OTT). This does not call for immediate taxation to Creative Industries/enterprises but an urgent call for Government to nurture, support, prioritize and adequately budget for the culture and creative sector beginning with the next budget to address the unemployment challenges for Uganda’s youth and revenue needs of the country.

Uganda’s employment has significant difference in the numbers of employed per sector and in the gender distribution. I have raised this sector comparison to bring in the role of creative and culture industries where most of the educated and non educated youth are finding easy refugee. A new labour movement estimated indicated that most youth in urban areas aged between 15 and 25 want to do music, participate in drama, join a comedy group, join fashion modeling or open a fashion boutique. This is increasing and not likely to change in favour of say coffee, horticulture, industry or farming of sort. First of all, the agricultural sector covers 11.6 million workers which constitute 74% of the total sector employment share. This sector is slightly dominated by women by 54%. Secondly, in the trade and the restaurant/hotels sector around 1.5 million workers are employment, which is 9.4% of the total employment and 46% are men. Agric sector is followed by the manufacturing sector that includes 780,000 workers with a sector employment share at 4.9% and slightly dominated by men (55%). The public sector is the fourth largest sector with 716,000 workers with 4.5% of the total employment. There is no miracles that are going to happen in agriculture sector apart from shrinking employment with improved science and mechanization of agriculture and the increasing manufacturing sector which is not elastic enough to absorb the youth with a lot of skills mismatch. We must also note that because most industries are skill specific, they need specific type of labour not found among Ugandan youth.

The coverage of employment in the informal economy where largely we find enterprises in culture and creative arts has been estimated at 94% of the total non-agricultural employment. This is the truth that we must acknowledge, and technocrats at the Ministry of Finance must find solution to spur and give a big push to creative and culture Industries sector through appropriate and adequate subvention to the relevant line ministries and institutions.

The writer is an economist/trade consultant

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