Kenya’s Election Season Ironically Boosts Creative Industry

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Written by Frank Mutulu

While uncertainty rocked the Kenyan economy during the third and fourth quarter of 2012, owing to the disquiet brought on by the recently concluded elections, the creative industry appears to have been largely spared. In an interesting twist, it seems to have thrived. In the Airline Industry, for instance, Virgin Atlantic shut down Kenyan operations, and Jetlink Express went out of business late last year.

In a hard hitting commentary published in the Independent, business magnate Sir Richard Branson greatly blamed the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the US State Department for portraying Kenya as a very dangerous destination and issuing travel advisories. While other factors led to Virgin’s pullout from the Kenyan market, such advisories did not help in keeping Branson’s airline plying the London – Nairobi route.

Other sectors suffered a similar blow. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the construction sector grew by only 0.6 percent in quarter three of 2012, down from 3.2 and 1.4 percent in the first and second quarters respectively.

Kenya has, in the past decade, witnessed a marked increase in focus on creativity, artistry and tech innovation nerve centers. Nairobi, the East African State’s capital, in particular has now become a hub full of activities, with a dramatic increase in the number of innovation centers in the past three years.

Ms Jacquie Mwai, Public Relations and Social Media Officer at the Go Down Arts Center, attributes this resurgence of creativity in the Kenyan scene to sheer determination, perseverance and persistence.

“It has been a steady growth curve, and an impactful one for us at Go Down, in promoting the arts, and culture,” she said. “We have recently been overwhelmed with project proposals from artists who trust that given our successful track record, we can deliver.”

Creative Hubs such as Pawa254, the Go Down Arts Center, and Nairobi’s innovation hub for the tech community, the iHub, have continued to operate with relatively unaffected efficiency over the election period.