Rwanda's Creative Industries Policy takes Shape through the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

21/06/2016 11:08 | Updated 21 June 2016

''It's really important to have creativity to solve challenges in society, especially following our troubled past. We have to be creative to find solutions to rebuild harmony between communities,'' said Odile Gakire, a cultural entrepreneur from Huye, southern Rwanda. Read full story.

''Rwanda doesn't have gold or natural resources, we have to be creative and use our talents and the creative industries to create jobs and make progress in our country,'' Odile Gakire added. She recently took part in a special consultation held in Kigali with some 70 arts, culture and media professionals together with UNESCO and Government representatives. "I believe that creativity helps a human being evolve. Creativity is about nurturing humanity and rebuilding people from within,'' she asserted.

As a creative professional who has produced a music festival, a theatre play and established a drumming group, Odile Gakire is adamant that creativity has the power to change people's attitudes: "It allows you to express yourself and connect with yourself and others. We should care about the quality of people we have in society and acknowledge that creativity can help create good people.''

Rwanda, a Party to the Convention since 2012, has one of the highest GDP growth rates in Africa - 8% (World Bank 2015) and is already profiting from the production of major music festivals like Kigali Up and Primus Guma Guma Super Star, and the music TV talent show, Ishusho k'umuziki Nyarwanda.

Culture experts are working closely with civil society and other key players to develop the nation's creative industries to create more jobs, increase the number of people with employable skills - all working towards lifting the country out of poverty.

In a step towards strengthening the country's culture sector to help boost development , UNESCO and the Ministry of Sports and Culture, cultural professionals, including Odile Gakire, and other creative institutions worked together in Kigali in a consultation meeting on 23 May and a 3-day training workshop from 25 to 27 May 2016.

At the opening session, Ms Julienne Uwacu, Minister of Sports and Culture in Rwanda, stated the need for more jobs and economic growth through the creative and cultural industries as a top priority, while Mr Mikael Boström of the Swedish Embassy in Kigali asserted that creative industries are one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the global economy. He said that investing in culture can help improve quality of life of Rwandans. The consultation and the workshop are a part of the project "Enhancing fundamental freedoms through the promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions" funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Preparing Rwanda's first periodic report on the implementation of the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the diversity of Cultural Expressions was the focus. Artists and culture experts got to grips with fundamental principles of the Convention such as freedom of expression, gender equality, sustainability, creating a balance in the flow of cultural goods and services, granting preferential treatment measures to developing countries. They also learned about various mechanisms of the Convention such as funding opportunities from the International Fund for Cultural Diversity.

Karalyn Monteil, UNESCO Programme Specialist for Culture in the Regional Office for Eastern Africa, noted that while the Ministry of Sports and Culture had already established close connections with civil society and artists in Rwanda, this consultation created new collaboration with other ministries such as foreign affairs, trade and education.

International experts Charles Vallerand and Jenny Mbaye, both members of the 2005 Convention's Expert Facility, supported the Rwandan national team in identifying innovative measures and achievements to highlight in Rwanda's periodic report to UNESCO. By the end of the workshop, the team had drafted a well-developed table of contents for the periodic report, while acknowledging challenges in expanding the country's creative industries.

Lack of funding has been highlighted as an obstacle for creative industries, Charles Vallerand said:

''While there are private galleries bringing contemporary artists together and profiling their work in Kigali, we've heard from artists that there is no real infrastructure or art space in the country for them to practice their profession, leaving them struggling to find a place to gather and create''.

He also noted that plans to finalize the Kigali Cultural Village were an important step in the nation building process: "[Rwandans] are trying to come back to who they are and they are proud of who they are. They are rebuilding a nation and that's why creativity is important as well as other factors''.

The periodic report will be presented for feedback to a broad array of key players in September this year before it is finalized and submitted to UNESCO.

The Government is planning to develop a series of training opportunities to reinforce skills of artists and cultural professionals. It will be also tacking issues such as piracy, insufficient funding, loose networks between the creative industries and limited marketing to promote them. Already, Rwanda has lifted cultural levies and introduced a law to ensure that 70 % of broadcasting on television consists of national content to promote the country's audio visual and film industries.

The periodic report by Rwanda will contribute to the next edition of the Global report on the implementation of the Convention, to be launched in December 2017. The 2015 Global Report, Re|Shaping Cultural Policies, is available for download at:

Follow us on Twitter: #supportcreativity

See website: