The funding gap • Project work in Kenya

As we in the project team pursue the question of interaction between business and cultural field during our sessions, several things emerge. And as we get in to the thought of investors investing in cultural businesses to make profitable returns, a few more things get clear.

Many of the people we meet talk about the potential of creative industries in Kenya, people from both business and cultural side. There is an opening, a collective thought is, a potential, which should be addressed. But how? How would you do to catalyze this potential and at the cost of what? What are the trade-offs?

Samuel Muvelah, at Zimele Asset Management Company Limited, has long experience of project work in different parts of Kenya, venture capital and is now a money manager for those who put in around 50 dollars and want their savings to grow. ”The reason the creative field is not seen, is that it’s lacking sufficient institutional organization to integrate with formal capital structures”, is his major point. ”The field is disorganized, so how do you find talent? How do you begin to cooperate with creative industries?” ”To catalyze the potential you need an entry point!”

Muthoni Udonga, on the other hand is musician and a real entrepreneur. She runs festivals with a variety of the top East African Artists, run workshops, and she does this with the perspective of both doing excellent music events, and do activities that develop the field. All this at the same time as she runs her own music career. ”Film, tv, music are really taking off here in Nairobi. On small budgets and very entrepreneurial”, she says. Together with producer Robert Wawawei, they describe a growing and bubbling music life with many upcoming new Artists. It’s a growing field, but one also struggling with skills gaps. ”Artists have to think like entrepreneurs, but that doesn’t happen here”, is Muthoni’s point. Together with few funding bodies, lack of investment money and an unpredictable audience, it’s hard to come forward. Hard – but not impossible.

So how could this funding gap between investors wanting to invest in creative industries but don’t know how, and a creative field wanting to be able to live on their content be resolved? How can bridges be built? In September the first meeting will be held in Nairobi putting these partners together to find concrete suggestions to come forward.

But in such a complex project there are many things to consider, and the team of Godown Art Center, Mangowalla Ventures and Nätverkstan, have been digging deep in to these discussions. A few things has emerged, perhaps not so new, but still very evident.

1. Investors expect an economic profit in their investments. Considering the creative field, which consists of a wide variety of activities from the Arts to design and media, only a few will be in consideration. Only a very small portion of cultural businesses and organizations has the chance to make these sorts of profits. They exist, of course, and there is a point to build bridges so they can meet, but for the cultural field as a whole, this will not be a solution.

2. Majority in the creative field are single Artists, small-scale cultural entrepreneurs and organizations that run not-for-profit entities. These might not be in the viewpoint of the investors, but are important as job creators. Here future jobs will be created.

3. Content production and symbolic value are becoming more and more important in the business world. The business field needs the creative field to be able to sustain the value of their products in a world in fast transition.

4. The Artists and investors have one common denominator: they both live on taking risks. The Artist takes risk to create meaning, the investor to create returns.

5. What are the trade-offs? For the investor one such is perhaps the relation between the higher expected returns, the less quality of the Artistic work, if you in the ”quality”-word also put in the aspect of uniqueness. This relation might not be binding, a film production selling very well and generating a large profit might also be of high quality. But for most cultural entrepreneurs striving in the field, there will not be large amounts of money to be made, unless you put less amount of time into increasing quality or your Artistic talent or do something else.

So for the Artist on the other hand, the relation between Artistic value and survival are true. Will you be able to live on your Art? If you want to earn money, is there a trade-off on your Artistic value?

The project is a project funded by the Swedish Institute and Strömme Foundation and run by Pratik Vithlani at Mangowalla Ventures in cooperation with Godown and Nätverkstan.

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Lotta Lekvall
Director of Nätverkstan, a Cultural Organisation in Sweden. Nätverkstan provides services …

Cultural and Social Entrepreneurship

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