Rwanda Looks To Sweden For Modeling A Strong Local Creative Economy

Rwanda Looks To Sweden For Modeling A Strong Local Creative Economy

The greatest impact of a country’s creative industry isn’t how many jobs it creates or how much it contributes to a country’s GDP, but how it diversifies the economy and helps strengthen other industries, according to a NewTimes report.

This realization has jolted the Rwandan government into action, and the country is looking to Sweden to help Rwandans develop the local creative economy, Collins Mwai writes in NewTimes.

Sweden’s creative industry has been responsible for the growth of the country’s world-renowned brands — brands like Spotify, a music streaming company; H&M clothing line; and Sound Cloud, an online audio distribution platform.

All owe their growth to support from the creative industry, said Emma Stenström, a professor at the Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden, in a NewTimes interview. She specializes in the relationship between business and creativity.

Sweden’s creative industry contributes about 5 percent to its GDP and over 200,000 jobs.

“The true picture of the impact of the creative industry is not on the direct number of jobs created, it is how it diversifies an economy,” Stenström said. “Without the creative industry, a number of top Swedish brands could not have gotten to where they are today.”

Rwandan companies and the private sector in general could replicate the Swedish model, where firms used the creative industry to grow their brands, Stenström said.

First though, the industry must gain acceptance from key players in the local Rwandan economy.

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Creative industry players must show leading corporations and industries the value they can add to their brands to gain acceptance in the market, said Robert Nilson, deputy director at the Swedish Ministry of Culture.

Many stakeholders in the creative sector feel that their industry is misunderstood.

There is need to broaden understanding of the Rwandan creative industry among private-sector leaders, said Mathew Rugamba, owner of House of Tayo fashion house, in a recent BusinessTimes interview.

“There is a perception that the industry (is) only involved music, industrial art and advertising. So, it is important to show its significance and impact in other areas,” Rugamba said.

Another big challenge facing the industry is the low purchasing power among Rwandans to buy products like art and music from the creative sector, NewTimes reports.

Instead, creative industry players should concentrate on exports of popular Rwandan brands, Stenström said.

Some Rwandan fashion designers are already targeting foreign markets by hosting exhibitions abroad.

In other markets where the creative industries are more relevant, lobbying and co-operation among sector stakeholders have helped raise the profile of the creative industries.

Industry stakeholders need to be cohesive if they want to be heard and get adequate representation by government, said Joy Mboya, executive director of Go Down Art Centre, a co-working space for artists in Nairobi, Keny.

“You should all be moving in the same direction; share knowledge and resources, and have a voice that is not fragmented, Mboya said. “The old and young institutions in the creative sector should have the same vision.”