Creative industry seen as key economic growth catalyst for Botswana

17 Jun 2019

BY PATIENCE RADISOENG

Leaders around the world are increasingly concerned with one word: change. Trends show that change in various sectors of the society and economy is happening at higher speeds, in more areas of life and with more unknown consequences than anyone can remember.

In Botswana, the government has been encouraged to embrace change that can be brought by the creative industry as a sector of the economy.

The sector is seen, by some not just as an industry but also a catalyst that can be used to achieve sustainable development.

Already there are as there are several film companies setting up in Botswana mostly owned by youth.

Among such companies is Zembe Studios which was registered in 2017 and focuses on the production of animation, television and film production as well as photographic services. It was founded by Abednico Mogomotsi Rankwe.

“I have been in love with cameras since my high school days, it happened that when I was taking my final year at Masunga Senior School, I brought along my friend's camera and started taking people pictures around the school and sometimes take days off school as I was a boarding student so that I can print them in Francistown,” the 23 year old lad from Masunga said.

Adding that it was a good business hence his love for cameras grew which made him study television and film production with Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.

However Rankwe says his biggest challenge so far is the fact that people do not appreciate creativity locally and it makes it hard for one to sustain their lives through this, as they end up undercharging or blacklisting some clients because they do not pay.

“Even selling content at our local television stations is not as easy as one may think, there is a minor circle of people who get their content through and its hardly youth companies,” he continued.

But having realized these challenges, he stated that he grouped up with some creatives and came up with a concept called Creative Connect which is a co-operative society which aims at improving the creative industry and make it a major contributor to the country’s economy GDP because in the US, Nigeria and South Africa the creative sector contributes highly.

He noted; “Creative Connect is meant to facilitate bottom-up approach, stability, competition and coordination. Every month the members contribute a certain amount of money so that in ten years or 15 years we can be able to procure property specifically for the creative sector and this is where we call the government and even the private sector to vouch in and help because one way or the other they are the major beneficiaries of this sector.”

Rankwe says even though so far they have managed to work on the animation and photography side of things, this year they are focusing on producing short and feature films which will play trade locally and in international markets.

Whereas their long term goal is to see Zembe Studios as a center for content development where upcoming and existing content producers can come through and sign development and distribution deals with them just like Netflix, Disneyworld and Warner Bros.

“My advice to upcoming entrepreneurs is that they should understand that there is no formula for success therefore they should start to think in the proximity of making a difference,” he concluded.

Yet, there is no doubt that our television and film industry is still very young compared to that of our neighboring countries but we all understand that everything that is big now used to be small at some point, so we need to start small now so that we may be big and impactful tomorrow.

Thus most media reports locally state that creative minds crave to showcase their ideas but they are challenged by insufficient resources to turn these ideas in to content for the already existing global market.

One might argue that this is not only an issue to be addressed by government, but also an opportunity for Botswana’s business sector to consider in diversifying their investment portfolios.

As Botswana has a lot to offer and share with the world including the evolving culture, success and intriguing stories, trade opportunities and the state of the country’s general developments as the likes of Norman Moloi, Thabiso Maretlwaneng, Billy Kokorwe, Kesebonye Seabelo, and others, continue to take that frightful leap to have their works broadcasted beyond the borders. Their efforts have given a sense of hope to others.

It always takes somebody to make the first move that will get the ball rolling and when looking at developed and well established film and television industries, such as those of countries like the USA and South Africa just to mention two, it becomes hard to imagine that some time back a small group of people or even one person started something that is now so huge and beneficial to the economies of these countries.