Thursday, May 6, 2021

We can no longer afford to ignore arts entrepreneurs

The government states in one of its outdated websites that through the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture it undertakes the annual President’s Day Competitions on Visual and Performing Arts to showcase Batswana’s talent in the creative arts.

According to the site, the nature of the event is such that there are competitions among visual artists and crafts producers as well as performing artist of different genres; including traditional song and dance, contemporary music, chorale music, traditional instruments as well as visual arts and crafts.

The information contained on the site also notes that these competitions start at regional level where the best groups are selected until the final competition where artists are awarded prizes ranging from P25, 000 per group to P10, 000 for individual performers. Indeed this is a deliberate and commendable effort that seeks to promote and preserve our culture.

However given our high rate of unemployment and the need to diversify our revenue sources, we strongly believe that we could improve on these competitions and make them monetarily valuable to both the artists and the country. Elsewhere, in this global village that we live in, terms such as “creative economy,” “creative class,” and “cultural economy” are becoming more common among urban planners, government administrators, economic developers, and business leaders. These terms should be found in our vocabulary as well.

At the moment it is difficult to measure the economic contribution as well as determine a labor market analysis in terms of skills requirements within the arts sector due to lack of historically accurate and valid data. However, we are confident that going forward the potential that this sector has can no longer go unnoticed or ignored. Given the number of students that tax payer’s money is used to send to one of the private universities in this country, we can no longer afford to turn a blind eye on this sector. Why did we build the Oodi College of Arts in the first place?

Just across the border, our big brother, South Africa’s arts and creative sectors are not only vibrant and dynamic but they are also one of the largest contributors to the economy. Think how many people are employed in the film industry in South Africa. Imagine how the industry supports other sectors such as transport and tourism. Don’t we have the same potential here?

While we ponder on this issue, we ought to bear in mind that in this era economic development could be enhanced by concentrating creativity through both physical density and human capital. As such we do believe that by locating firms, artists, and cultural facilities together within our economy, a multiplier effect can result. Going forward, our decision makers should know that the recognition of a community’s arts assets is an important element of economic development. This of cause entails marketing them as well. On top of that, our decision makers also ought to always bear in mind that creatively acknowledging and marketing our community assets can attract a strong workforce and successful firms, as well as help sustain a positive quality of life. The truth of the matter is that the economic development field has changed in the last decade from one that primarily emphasized location and firm-based approaches to one that more overtly acknowledges the development of human capital. There is no doubt that careers in the arts sector offer exciting opportunities for income generation as well as creative expression and are open to anyone with talent and creativity. We have no doubt that our youth, most of whom are the hard hit by the unemployment curse, have immerse talent that can be turned into alternative sources of income, The #Bottomline therefore remains, ‘we can no longer to afford to continue ignoring our arts entrepreneurs’. Let’s find ways of stimulating the economy through the arts industry, reserves are not the only way of economic stimulation.

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