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Opinions of Friday, 19 November 2021

Columnist: Emmanuel Jewel Peprah Mensah

Using 'Dondology' as methodology for job creation: A focus on Ghana’s unemployment crisis

Emmanuel Jewel Peprah Mensah Emmanuel Jewel Peprah Mensah

In recent times, it seems there is little disagreement in public policy discourse that art and culture have the potential to have a powerful transformative function in Ghana. Nonetheless, the impact of arts and culture is yet to be felt in Ghana since independence. Let me also hasten to add that – arts and culture can never be disassociated from development in any country.

Ghana is a country where we disrespect, underestimate, and undervalue arts and culture. Notwithstanding, arts and culture are the only saviors to Ghana’s economic woes.

Disrespected by the academic brain of the ‘intellectuals’, Dondology(arts and culture) as a derogatory terminology has registered and gained wider currency in Ghana. We judge wannabe creatives seeking a degree as wasting their time and school fees. I think all art students can testify to this; so is the artisan at the roadside who feeds the European market with his or her creativity!

To many Ghanaians, Dondology is of no significance to the nation’s development. The term Dondology is coined from the popular Ghanaian talking drum, Dondo as a reference to the academic studies of Performing Arts (Degree in arts and culture course).

That is the general ignoramus perception out there. A coworker in Accra once told me that the former Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, said the Ministry is for CANTATA people so when the party that the Minister supports comes to power again, the person wants the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Wow! Is arts and culture not trade and industry? Well, in this article, I use Dondology to literally emphasize arts and culture.

Arts and culture are the souls of every nation! There is lots of circumstantial evidence for the rapid growth of the art industry across the world. The rise of art fairs, the explosion in the number of musicians, actors, resident groups (such as drama companies, Kete, Adowa, and Nnwomkoro ensemble), art galleries, and the growth of art pointing as a trade are impossible to ignore. But now, Ghana is still confronted with a high unemployment rate.

The cultural and creative industries (CCIs) have been hailed as offering great potential to create jobs and to be socially inclusive. Creating new jobs in twos and threes, hundreds of times over, month by month, CCIs are great news for the economy, but not seen as ‘engine’ for economic growth by governments and ‘news’ by the media.

Consequently, the creative industry’s job creation is often overlooked by the government and the media, and the economic impact of the creative industry is underestimated. Ironically, media is a component of the creative industry.

In some ways, it doesn’t matter. These are real people doing real jobs, selling real products worldwide, and paying real taxes. But in other ways, it does matter greatly. Because the policymakers who invest in business infrastructure look only towards the big shiny visible sectors of the economy, they will fail to do their job.

My fear is that Ghana will overlook a sector that will drive the economy of the future because it doesn’t conform to the ‘big industry’ model of the past. And unemployment will continue to scale up to breed insecurity in the country.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, The Arts and Economic Growth (2021), the arts contribute more to the US national economy than do the construction, transportation and warehousing, travel and tourism, mining, utilities, and agriculture industries.

The value of arts and cultural production in America alone in 2019 was $919.7 billion, amounting to 4.3% of gross domestic product. America exported $78.1 billion and imported $45.3 billion worth of arts and culture. Performing arts companies and independent artists, writers, and performers added a combined total of $60.9 billion to the U.S. economy in 2019.

And there were 5.2 million arts and cultural sector jobs in America in 2017—accounting for 3.3% of all U.S. jobs—which collectively paid workers a total of $446.7 billion.

I guess you are saying but all this is happening in the US and Europe but not Africa. Time always fails me when writing on arts and culture subjects. I would have wanted to delve into over 20 African countries making strides but do forgive as I do only Nigeria and South Africa.

Keeping themselves abreast with the creative industry giants in America and Europe, certain African countries are displaying resilient commitment toward the arts and culture sector. Shining examples are Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, among others.

In the case of South Africa in 2014, the country executed its first cultural and creative mapping study. The research indicated that the creative industry has created between 162,809 and 192,410 jobs, proportionally representing 1.08% to 1.28% of employment in the country, contributing to 2.9% to GDP.

In Nigeria, the creative industry is the second-highest earner to GDP, closely tracking agriculture. In the year 2016, the creative economy contributed N239 billion, representing 2.3% of GDP. As part of the country’s radical measures to wean itself off over-reliance on oil earnings, successive governments continue to invest in the sector to boost the economy.

For instance, in 2015, then President Goodluck Jonathan government signed a memorandum with the Bank of Industry (BoI) to develop a special product called “BoI NollyFund” under which Nigeria’s movie producers who provide a qualitative proposal, commercially viable scripts and demonstrate a track record of successful movie productions are given financial support. An initial amount of $200 million was committed to that effect.

Today, the Nigerian movie industry, commonly known as Nollywood produces about 50 movies per week. This feat is more than US’s Hollywood and second only to India’s Bollywood! A study by BBC indicates that Nollywood creates 1million jobs annually, with an impressive, estimated revenue of $590 million.

It is significant to note that the statistics given are exclusive to other Nigerian creative sectors such as dance, visual arts, fashion; and music industry, which according to PricewaterhouseCoopers was expected to raise a revenue of $88million in 2019.

Cultural industries encompass 16 different companies – such as fine arts, film, and craft – but also possibly including jewelry design, publishing and fashion.

As a nation, if we think outside the box, we will see the signs clear on the wall. Unemployment will no longer be an unyielding albatross around the neck of the government. This is because a creative person is like a factory or business – as a musician, you will employ managers, lawyers, accountants, medical doctors, marketers, insurers, laborers, security, distributors, publicist, booking agents, drivers, cleaners…the list is endless.
Is Sarkodie alone not employing these people?

Cultural Times indicates that cultural and creative industries generate US$250 billion in revenue a year, creating 29.5 million jobs worldwide.

So, what if we are to intentionally invest in the arts and culture sector?